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Mughal Oppression on Sikhs

The First Battle of Sikhs
King Jahangir died on 8th November, 1627 A.D. His son Shah Jahan ascended the throne of India on the 6th February, 1628 A.D. (after battle with his brothers for throne). After becoming king he issued a proclamation, "preaching of any religion except Islam is banned. Temples constructed in the last few years be demolished and no new ones be constructed." In accordance with this proclamation, the step-well at Lahore was filled up and a mosque constructed at the site. This happening alerted the Sikhs to be prepared to defend Amritsar.
One day a squad of Sikhs, while hunting reached near Lahore where the royal family was also hunting. The Sikhs set their hawk in pursuit of a quarry. The royal hunters also released their hawk from the other side. The hawk of the Sikhs caught the prey and brought it to them. The royal hawk in pursuit of the prey also came to the Sikhs. The Sikhs caught the royal Hawk. When the royal hunters came and demanded their hawk, the Sikhs refused. On return, the royal hunters told Kulij Khan, the governor of Lahore , to chastise the Sikhs, he despatched General Mukhlis Khan with an army of Seven thousand to attack Amritsar.

On the 15th May, 1628 A.D., when the Guru heard of the arrival of the royal army, he ordered his generals to take up positions. The marriage of Bibi Viro, the daughter of the Guru, had been fixed for the third day and the marriage party was coming to Amritsar. The guru sent the holy granth and the family to village Chabhal and sent a message to the bridal procession to reach there.

The Sikhs and the royal Army of Mughals clashed near Pipli Sahib. The braves from both sides began to show their skills. This was the first battle on Punjab's soil in which there was no involvement of wealth, land or worldly thing. The Sikhs had only come forward to fight the excesses of the rulers not caring for their lives for the sake of their freedom and honour. When the Guru reached Lohgarh fort, he ordered Sikhs to fire the stone-cannon. That cannon had been made by Mohri, a carpenter of Khemkaran, from a dried tree. When the army started to retreat due to the rain of stones from the fort., Mukhlis Khan challenged, "You are the sons of brave men and there is only a band of fakirs (ascetics) on the other side." Out of the shame, the royal family kept on fighting till dusk.

The next day, in the first attack, Painde Khan came out of the fort and made short work of Didar Ali, Mukhlis Khan's companion. The Guru after defending three blows from Mukhlis Khan's sword, inflicted such a blow on him with his double edged sword that pierced his shield and split him into two. Seeing the end of their leaders, the royal army fled. After the cremation of the Sikhs who attained martyrdom in the battle, the Guru took the Sikhs with him and reached Chabhal by the fall of night.

Excerpts taken from this book.
Article Written by
Sardar Santokh Singh Jagdev

Massacre of Sikhs in Delhi 1716

John Surman and Edward Stephenson

INTRODUCTORY NOTE
The paragraph which refers to the arrest and massacre of the Sikhs at Delhi in 1716 is extracted from a letter dated Delhi, March 10, 1716, written by Messrs. John Surman and Edward Stephenson to the Hon'ble Robert Hedges, President and Governor of Fort William, etc., Council in Bengal. These gentlemen and their Secretary, Hugh Barker, were then present in the Mughal capital as ambassadors of the East India Company's Council in Bengal to the Court of Emperor Farrukh-Siyar. Under instructions of their principals, the ambassadors maintained a regular Diary of the events and transactions at the royal court, and wrote to Calcutta to keep the headquarters informed of the political and other developments there. This letter of March 10, 1716, was read at a consultation at Fort St. George on Tuesday, 5th June, 1716, and is to be found in the Madras Diary and Consultation Book for 1715 to 1719, No. 87, Range 237, in the India Office (now Commonwealth Relations Office), London. It is also reproduced in C. R. Wilson's The Early Annals of the English in Bengal, volume II, part II (Calcutta, 1911), pp. 96-98, and in J. T. Wheeler's Early Records of British India, p. 180.

The chief of the Sikhs, Banda Singh, referred to in the letter as 'the great Rebel Gooroo', was originally an ascetic sadhu of the bairagi order. He was initiated into the Sikh order of the Khalsa in September 1708 by Guru Gobind Singh at Nander in the Deccan where he had gone in connection with the negotiations that had been going on with Emperor Bahadur Shah (1707-12) since July 1707. There the Guru was stabbed by a Pathan from Sirhind in the last week of September 1708, and he died of his wound on October 6-7. The line of the Sikh Gurus that had begun with Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of Sikh religion, came to an end with the tenth and the last Guru Gobind Singh who bequeathed spiritual heritage of Sikhism to the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, and the temporal leadership of the Sikhs to the general body of the Khalsa.

Before the death of the Guru, however, Banda Singh, with the renewed zeal and vigour of a new convert, had left for the Panjab, not as Guru or the Sikhs but as commander of the forces of the Khalsa. Here the Sikhs gathered round him in large numbers and in the summer of 1710 he was soon able to carve out a small Sikh kingdom which, later, paved the way for the freedom of the country from under the Mughal yoke. But the Mughal empire was too strong for the infant power of the Sikhs under Banda Singh. He was captured in December 1715, during the reign of Emperor Farrukh-Siyar, under whose orders he was carried to Delhi as a prisoner along with 694 other Sikhs. Here they were all, with exception of Banda Singh and a few chosen leaders, executed in the maidan opposite the Chandni Chauk Kotwali at the rate of a hundred a day beginning on March 5, 1716. The turn of Banda Singh himself and his associates came three months later on June 9, when he was taken out to the Qutb Minar and torn to pieces near the tomb of Emperor Bahadur Shah.

C. R. Wilson, the author of the 'Early Annals of the English in Bengal', has given in the volume II, part II, pp. xlii-xliii, the following description of the entry of Banda Singh and his fellow captives into Delhi on February 27, 1716, based on the articles of William Irwine on the 'Political History of the Sikhs' (Asiatic Quarterly, January 1894, pp. 420-31 ) and 'Guru Gobind Singh and Bandah' (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal for 1894, part I, pp. 112-43). He says:

The ceremonial on this occasion was copied from that observed after the capture of the Maratha Sambhaji. Malice did its utmost to cover the vanquished with ridicule and shame. First came the heads of the executed Sikhs, stuffed with straw, and stuck on bamboos, their long hair streaming in the wind like a veil, and along with them to show that every living creature in Gurdaspore had perished, a dead cat on a pole.

The teacher himself dressed out of mockery in a turban of red cloth, embroidered with gold, and a heavy robe of brocade, flowered with pomegranates, sat in an iron cage, placed on the back: of an elephant. Behind him stood a mail-clad officer, with a drawn sword. After him came the other prisoners, seven hundred and forty in number, seated two and two upon camels without saddles. Each wore a high fool's cap of sheepskin and had one hand pinned to his neck, between two pieces of wood. Many were also dressed in sheep skins with wooly side turned outwards. At the end of the procession rode three great nobles, Muhammad Amin Khan, sent by the emperor to bring in the prisoners, (From Agharabad to the Lahori gate of the palace] Kamr-ud-Din, his son, and Zakariya Khan, his son-in-law, who being also the son of Abd-us-Samad Khan had been deputed to represent his father at the ceremony.

The road to the palace, for several miles, was lined with troops and filled with exultant crowds, who mocked at the teacher and laughed at the grotesque appearance of his followers. They wagged their heads and pointed the finger of scorn at the poor wretched as they passed. 'Hu! Hu!, infidel dog-worshippers, your day has come. Truly retribution follows on transgression, as wheat springs from wheat, and barley from barley.' Yet the triumph could not have seemed complete. Not all the insults that their enemies had invented could rob the teacher and his followers of their dignity. Without any sign of dejection or shame, they rode on, calm, cheerful, even anxious to die the death of martyrs.

Life was promised to any who would renounce their faith, but they would not prove false to their Guru, and at the place of suffering their constancy was wonderful to look at. 'Me, deliverer, kill me first' was the prayer which constantly rang in the ears of the executioner.

One there was, a young man, an only son, whose widow mother had made many applications to the Mughal officers, declaring that her son was a Sikh prisoner, and no follower of the Guru. A release was granted and she hastened to the prison-house to claim her son. But the boy turned from her to meet his doom crying, 'I know not this woman. What does she want with me? I am a true and loyal follower of the Guru.' For a whole week the sword of the executioner did its butcher's work. Every day a hundred brave men perished and at night the headless bodies were loaded into carts, taken out of the city, and hung upon trees.

It was not till June 19 [Sunday, the 29th Jamadi-ul-Akhir, 1128 A.H., June 9, 1716 O.S.] that Banda himself was led out to execution, all efforts having failed to buy him off. They dressed him, as on the day of his entry, set him again on an elephant, and took him away to the old city, where the red Qutb Minar lifts its proud head of white marble over the crumbling walls of the Hindu fortress. Here they paraded him round the tomb of the late emperor Bahadur Shah, and put him to a barbarous death. First they made him dismount, placed his child in his arms and bade him kill it. Then, as he shrank with horror from the act, they ripped open the child before its father's eyes, thrust its quivering flesh into his mouth and hacked him to pieces limb by limb.

The authors of the despatch John Surman and Edward Stephenson (and the Secretary, Hugh Barker) were, evidently, eyewitnesses of the dreadful massacre of the Sikhs at Delhi in March recorded by them. The executions began on March 5, five days before the date of the despatch, March 10, when a few hundred Sikhs had yet to be executed. This paragraph of the despatch, therefore, is of great historical value to the students and scholars of history. The last sentence regarding the unflinching devotion of the Sikhs to their faith under the severest of trials is very significant. Except for the number of the Sikh prisoners, which Muhammad Hadi Kamwar Khan gives as 694 in his 'Tazkirat-us-Salatin', the despatch of the English ambassadors is in full agreement with the writings of the other eye-witnesses and contemporaries. The reader interested in futher study of the exploits and achievements of Banda Singh is referred to 'Life of Banda Singh Bahadur' published in 1935, and the bibliography appended to it.

Dr Ganda Singh

Letter XII

The Honourable Robert Hedges Esq.,
President & Governor of Fort William. & Council in Bengal.
Honourable Sirs. etc..
We wrote your Honour on the 7th ultimo since which we have received no letters.

The great Rebel Gooroo [Banda Singh] who has been for these 20 years so troublesome in the Subaship [suba] of Lahore is at length taken with all his family and attendance by Abd-us-Samad Cawn the Suba [subedar. i. e., Governor] of that province. Some days ago they entered the city laden with fetters, his whole attendants which were left alive being about seven hundred and eighty all severally mounted on camels which were sent out of the City for that purpose, besides about two thousand heads stuck upon poles. being those who died by the sword in battle. He was carried into the presence of the King, and from thence to a close prison. He at present has his life prolonged with most of his mutsuddys in the hope to get an Account of his treasure in the several parts of his Kingdom, and of those that assisted him, when afterwards he will be executed, for the rest there are 100 each day beheaded. It is not a little remarkable with what patience they undergo their fate, and to the last it has not been found that one apostatised from his new formed Religion.

Source:Early European Accounts of the Sikhs, Dr Ganda Singh

Nadir Shah's Invasion(1738-1739)
Babar was the first of the Mughals to invade India in 1521, and seize power at Delhi by defeating the army of the Lodhi Sultan Ibrahim at Panipat in 1526. towards December 1719, Mohammed Shah Rangila was placed on the throne inspite of the protestations of his widowed mother. Power slowly passed from the hands of the Sayad brothers into the hands of Mohammed Amin Khan. He died in 1721 and was replaced hy his son Qamar-ud-din Khan. Mohammed Shah remained an Emperor in name only till his death in 1748. During all these years Afghanistan (then known as Kabul) had heen a part of the Mughal Kingdom, and at the time of Mohammed Shah it was under Governor Nasir Khan. This man's control over his province was as weak as that of the Delhi Emperor. There was hardly any collection of state revenues. The soldiers had not been paid for several years, which in fact was happening in Delhi too.

Such conditions of unrest and frustration provided an energetic outsider like Nadir Shah a golden opportunity to seize power. A son of a poor shepherd in Khurasan, a province of Iran, Nadir had joined a robber band when he was still a boy. He grew up to be its leader at about the time in 1717, when the Afghans occupied Khurasan and later the capital of Iran. Nadir's patriotic zeal was roused and he rallied a strong band of horsemen who helped him regain Khurasan. By 1725, he had hecome a national hero, who drove the Afghans out of Iran, and who hecame a sort of regent with a boy of the royal family as King of Iran In 1736, when the boy King died, Nadir assumed the title of Emperor of Iran.

The Afghans had invaded Iran several times, and to avenge these raids, Nadir Shah advanced upon Ghazni and then Kabul, both of which were occupied in May, 1738. The Governor Nasir Khan was then in Peshawar. As Nadir Shah rode out towards the Khyher Pass in November 1738, Nasir tried to block his passage with a force of 20,000 ill trained Afghans, who were just no match for the fierce Khurasani horsemen. By December 1738, Nadir Shah had crossed the river Indus, and the lush plains of the Punjah stretched before him, literally beckoning him on. Zakaria Khan had made frantic requests for aid from Delhi, but without success. When he himself came out to oppose the invaders at the hanks of the river Ravi, his army was just brushed aside (January, 1739).

Nadir Shah was an able general and a wise administrator but insane criminal. His band of soldiers would aptly be called freebooters, rapists and looters. Atrocities were committed on Punjabi Muslims and Hindus alike. Then, He accepted a gift of two million rupees and retained Zakaria Khan as his governor at Lahore. He took as hostages a son of Zakaria and a son of the minister Lakhpat Rai, and thus secure against revolt, he proceeded towards Delhi. As his whole army was on horseback, his advance was rapid. Leaving Lahore on the 26th January, he reached Sirhind on the 1st February, Ambala on the 7th, and Karnal on the 12th Fehruary. The Delhi army had been alerted in Novemher on the fall of Kabul. The generals dragged their feet in moving out of Delhi. Every fresh report of Nadir s advance struck terror into them. They took two months to move their large army and their heavy guns up to Karnal, a distance of 75 miles. Here, they decided to give battle. They heavily outnumbered the attackers, but had no discipline and hardly any heart for a fight. On the 13th February, 1739, within three hours they had lost, over 20,000 killed or wounded, and the rest just scattered in all directions.

Nadir Shah entered Delhi as a victor on 9th March, 1739. He demanded 2.5 million Rupees as retribution, but the Rangila Emperor had nothing in his government treasury. He threw open his personal safe of jewels, and Nadir availed himself of all the diamonds and rubies of the Peacock Throne, and also the famous Koh-i-noor
He left Delhi at the beginning of May 1739, taking with him a few thousand Indian girls (both Hindu and Muslim), a large number of boys as slaves and thousands of elephants, horses and camels loaded with the booty his men had collected. The hollow shell that made up the Mughal empire had been smashed open by Nadir Shah with one sweep, and the Sikhs quickly moved in to collect the broken pieces.

During his stay at Delhi, the Sikhs had come out of their jungle retreats and had no difficulty in looting all the Mughal posts at countryside from the river Chenab to the areas around Karnal. Zakaria Khan's police forces were too demoralised to offer resistance. So Nadir's arrival was most opportune for the Sikhs in the replenishment of their depleted stores. Again when people learnt about his departure from Delhi, the rich landlords and noblemen promptly evacuated the cities and headed for the hills as they could not trust Mughals for their security anymore. Mohmmad Shah Rangila was a bad administrator, all his croonies had looted the rich landlors and elite after Nadir Shah left to fill up the coffers of Mughal kingdom.

Meahwhile, The Khalsa bands got together and passed a resolution: "Nadir Shah must deliver a part of the booty he was carrying away from Delhi." Nadir, on the other hand, felt that his reputation was a sufficient deterrent to anyone attacking him on the way. He had chosen the route along the foothills of the northern mountains to escape the heat of the plains. His baggage train being heavy-laden, lagged well behind his main force, and it was quite a shock for him to hear on reaching Akhnoor by the river Chenab, that all his slaves had been freed by Sikh bands, who had also seized a large share of his gold. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia who had just turned 21, showed a glimpse of his greatness as a leader by planning those raids, and by escorting the freed maidens to responsible homes from where they could return to their families.

Zakaria Khan had accompanied Nadir Shah to Akhnoor, and Nadir asked Zakaria Khan who those Sikhs were. On being told that they were all bands of poor sadhus, without clothing or riches, he asked;

"Then why don't you burn their houses down to punish them ?"

To that Zakaria replied,

"Their only homes are the saddles of their horses. They can last long
periods without food and rest. They are known to sleep on horseback.
We have put prizes on their heads, but their numbers keep increasing.
They are never despondent, but are always singing the songs of their Pirs."

With a sigh, Nadir admitted that in that case the Sikhs would one day rule the land. Then he obtained a promise of a tribute of 2 million Rupees annually from Lahore, and confirmed the appointment of Zakaria Khan at Lahore and of his son Shah Nawaz Khan at Multan (where Abdus Samad Khan had just died).
With the departure of Nadir Shah, Zakaria Khan took stock of his household and saw it all in ruins. He decided to take full revenge on the Sikhs for all his misfortunes.

Article taken from these books.
Encyclopedia of Sikhism edited by Harbans Singh ji.



Zakriya Khan
After Banda's execution
For the first five years after Banda's execution, very little was heard of the Sikhs. The focal point shifted from Punjab to Delhi, where Mata Sundari and Sahib Devan, were living in retirement. Bhai Mani singh looked after them and gave advice to parties of Sikhs who came to pay them homage. The Khalsa, who remained in the plains of Punjab got divided between Bandai, who wished to deify Banda and the Tat Khalsa, who, while revering the memory of the leader, disapproved of the attempt to apotheosize him. The rift grew wide between the two bands of Khalsa and situation became serious enough for the leading Sikhs to appeal to Mata Sundari for intervention. In A.D. 1721, she sent Bhai Mani singh to Amritsar to take charge of the Harimandir. The Bandai gave up their claim and, after a time, most of them threw in their lot with the Tat Khalsa.

Once the internal squabbles were settled, the sarbat Khalsa became a real force. Under its instructions Jathedars formed small bands of outlaws and began taking villages near mountain and jungle hideouts under their protection. A name which became legend in the countryside was Tara Singh of village van, who looted many district treasuries. His band of desperados was liquidated in 1726. By then many more bands of Sikh outlaws were operating in different parts of the province. The combine strength of these Jathas was enough to persuade Zakraya Khan, who, on the transfer of his father to Multan, had become governor of Lahore, to try to conciliate the Sikhs. His envoy came to the meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa on the first of Baisakh A.D 1733 and offered Dipalpur, Kanganwal, and Jhabal, which were worth a lakh of rupees in revenue as a jagir (estate). The offer was accepted with some reluctance and Kapur Singh virk of village Fyzullpur, was nominated jagirdar and given the title of Nawaab . Nawaab Kapur Singh Virk was thus recognized as the leader of the Sikhs, both by Sarbat Khalsa as well as the provincial governor. Closely associated with Kapur Singh was another remarkable man Jassa Singh ahluwalia. These two men became chief architects of Sikh power in the country.

Kapur Singh and Jassa Singh made full use of the conciliatory attitude of Zakraya Khan. The Khalsa was ordered to come out of their hideouts. At another meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa held at the Akal Takth, jathas were reorganized. They were assured complete freedom of action except when the future of the community was in jeapordy; then they had to merge their units in the Dal Khalsa , the army of the Khalsa. Two jathas of Buddha Dal and Taruna Dal were made. Former led by Kapur Singh, latter, which was more active and numerous, by a number of jathedaris had separate billets for their men.

The jagir did not prove as much of a sop to the Sikhs as Zakraya Khan had hoped. The Taruna Dal moved across the Bari Doab and forcibly collected the revenue which was due to the state. Zakraya Khan give up the policy of appeasement and jagir was confiscated. Zakraya Khan's minister Diwan Lahkpat Rai drove the Budha Dal out of Amritsar into the Bari Doab (Area between Beus and Ravi) and then across river Satluj. Ala Singh of Patiala joined Budha Dal and soon Budha dal occupied a large part of Malwa. Lakhpat Rai bided his time; when the Budha Dal recrossed the Sutlej he intercepted it on its march towards Amritsar. In the skirmish that followed, many officers of Lahore army, including Lakhpat Rai's nephew were slain. Zakraya Khan took the field himself, re-established his authority in the region, and maintained it with an iron hand for almost two years.

In the autumn of A.D. 1738 the aged Mani Singh, who was manager of the Harimandir, applied for permission to hold the Diwali fair in Amritsar. He was given license on undertaking to pay Rs. 5000 into the state treasury immediately after the festival. Mani Singh expected to raise money from the offerings of pilgrims. A few days before Diwali, Zakraya Khan sent a large force towards Amritsar. This frightened away the pilgrims, and Bhai Mani Singh was not able to pay the fee. He was arrested and brought to Lahore, and condemned to death. On his refusal to save his life by accepting conversion to Islam, Mani Singh was tortured and executed.History of Sikhs, by Khushwant singh page 124. Sohan Lal Suri in his Umdat-ut-Tawarikh states that Mani singh was tortured to death for his proselytizing activities. There is no doubt that the number of Sikhs increased rapidly under his influence. The killing of a pious and venerable head priest caused deep resentment among the Sikhs. But before they could retaliate, the situation changed with dramatic suddenness with the news of a Persian invasion from the northwest.

The Persian Invasion 1738-1739 A.D.

The Persian, Nadir Shah swept across Punjab scattering all opposition. Zakariya Khan made submission; Khalsa retreated to the hills. The Persian defeated imperial army at Karnal and pushed on to Delhi. The capital was plundered and its population massacred. In the summer of 1739 Nadir shah turned homewards laden with enormous booty, which included the be jewelled peacock throne, the famous koh-i-noor diamond, and thousands of slaves. He chose to travel back along the foothills of the Himlayas to avoid the heat of the plains as well as to find new pastures. The Khalsa, who were already there and were well acquainted with the terrain, found Nadir's loot-army an easy prey. The began plundering the invader's baggage train as soon as it entered the Punjab, and continued to do so all the way to river Indus. While passing through Lahore, Nadir shah is said to have questioned Zakaraya Khan about the brigands who have been audacious enough to attack his troops. The governor replied: "They are faqirs who visit their Guru's tank twice a year, and after having bathed in it disappear." "Where do they live?" enquired the Shah. "Their homes are their saddles," replied Zakaraya Khan. Nadir is said to have prophesied, "Take care the day is not far distant when these rebels will take possession of your country." By most historians, from Mohd. Latif, Miskin to Sohan Lal Suri, almost all agree that this dialogue took place.

Interlude between the Invasions, 1739-1747 A.D.

Nadir Shah's five months stay in India utterly disrupted the administration of Punjab. Zakraya Khan could do little more than retain his post by dancing attendance on the Persians. The only people who refused to have any truck with the foreigner were the Sikhs. The sikh conduct during the occupation, particularly in liberating Indian prisoners, created a new prestige among local people. Sikhs were now seen as a powerful guards of Punjab who could save the common people from an invader. Thousands of beautiful girls being taken to Persia for the harems were freed by Sikhs. Peasentry from Jamuna to Indus was behind them. Thus Khalsa returned to plains and built a mud fot at Dallewal on the banks of Ravi, and resumed their pilgrimage to Amritsar. According to a contemporary Muslim Writer:"Sikh horsemen were seen riding at full gallop towards their favourite shrine of devotion. They were often slain in the attempt and sometimes taken prisoner;but they used on such occasions to seek instead of avoiding, the crown of martyrdom.... No instance was known of a Sikh taken on his way to Amritsar consenting to abjure his faith."

Zakraya Khan, who had submitted to the foreigner, showed great alacrity in taking the offensive against the Sikhs. He had the fortress of Dallewal blown up and ordered village officials to round up Sikhs and hand them over for execution. He made head-hunting a profitable business by offering a graded scale of rewards:a blanket for cutting off a Sikh's hair, ten rupees for information of the whereabouts of a Sikh, fifty rupees for a Sikh scalp. Sikhs or withholding information of their movements was made a capital offence. Zakraya's police scoured the countryside and brought back hundreds of Sikhs in chains. They were publicly beheaded at the nakhas, the horsemarket of Lahore, since then renamed Sahidganj (place of martyrdom), in memory of the dead. At least 2-5 thousand Sikhs were executed here. Persecution had the opposite effect. Since the peasants were in sympathy with the Khalsa, they thwarted the administration by giving shelter to the fugitives, and many joined hands with Khalsa bands to ambush the state constabulary. The only notable exceptions were the Niranjanis of Jandiala, near Amritsar who colloborated with the authorities.

The Khalsa suffered terrible hardships during Zakraya Khan's stern rule. But they remained as defiant as ever and developed a spirit of bravado which enabled them to face adversity. Zakraya Khan died on July 1, 1745 A.D. His son Yahya Khan, who was also son in law of the chief wazir at Delhi, had no difficulty in securing an appointment as the governor of Lahore. Sikhs decided to reorganise their forces.
Upto 1745 bands of a dozen or more horsemen dharvi under a jathedar had operated independently. On the diwali of 1745 (October 14) the Sarbat Khalsa resolved to merge the small jathas into twenty-five sizeable regiments of cavalry and confirmed Kapur singh as overall commander. The commanders of some of the regiments, name, Hari Singh Bhangi, Naudh Singh of Sukarchak, Jassa singh Ahluwalia, and Jai Singh Kanhaya, played a decisive role in liberating the Punjab from Mughals and foreign invaders.

Excerpts taken from
A History of the Sikhs, Volume 1 By Khushwant Singh
Pages 100-129.


The Invasion of Ahmed Shah Abdali
Ahmed Shah had accompanied Nadir Shah to Delhi in 1739, and had seen the weakness of the ruler there. To pay for the maintenance of the army, he had to conquer new lands. His own country had no resources at all, compared with the vast wealth of India. Apart from that, he wished to enhance his own reputation in Afghanistan by capturing a neighboring country. He attacked Peshawar and drove out its Mughal governor Nasir Khan in October 1747. Just about then, he received an invitation from Shah Nawaz Khan to invade and annex the provinces of Multan, Kashmir and Lahore, saying that he would co-operate fully in this campaign in return for his own confirmation as governor of Lahore.

In December 1747, Ahmed Shah set out from Peshawar, and arrived at the Indus river-crossing at Attock. From there, he sent his messenger to Lahore, but the man was given a rough reception by Shah Nawaz, who was then a different man. He had been won over by the Delhi minister with an offer of confirmation in his appointment of Governor of Lahore. Thus, when Ahmed Shah reached the bank of the Ravi on 8th January, 1748, the Lahore army of 70,000 prepared to oppose the invader. The Pathans crossed over on the 10th of January and the battle was joined on the 11th. Ahmed Shah had only 30,000 horsemen, and no artillery. But during the battle, a force of 5,000 Pathans of Qasoor under Jamal Khan defected to his side, and he was able to crush the poorly trained forces of Lahore. Shah Nawaz fled to Delhi, and Adina Beg was equally fast in running away to the Jalandhar area.
Ahmed Shah entered the city on the 12th January 1748, and set free Moman Khan and Lakhpat Rai. He then ordered a general massacre. Towards evening, the prominent leaders of the city including Moman Khan, Lakhpat Rai and Surat Singh collected a sum of three million rupees and offered it as expenses to Abdali, requesting him to halt the looting and slaughter. Ahmed Shah appointed Jamal Khan of Qasoor Governor of Lahore, and Lakhpat Rai his minister, and restoring law and order around the town by February 18, he set out towards Delhi.

Meanwhile Qamar-ud-din Khan collected an army of 200,000 and marched towards Sirhind which was reached on 25th february. Here he found that the Rohela commander of Sirhind, Mohammed Khan had fled into the hills on hearing about the advance of Ahmed Shah. Qamar-ud-din left his baggage and his begums under the protection of 1,000 men at Sirhind, and advanced towards Machhiwara. Ahmed Shah crossed the river Satluj at Phillaur on the 1st March at night, and reached Sirhind the next day to Jind it almost undefended. On hearing about the capture of his beghams, Qamar-ud-din hastened back, and on the 11th March, 1748, the two armies clashed in battle at Manudur. Qamar-ud-Din was killed in one of a series of skirmishes that went on for some days. His son Muin-ul-Mulk (Mir Manu for short) took over the lead, and he made such a furious charge that Abdali's men gave way, and fled. By 17th March, Abdali was crossing the Satluj and heading towards Lahore, with Mir Manu following him, but at a safe distance behind.

This train of events seemed to have been specially designed by Providence for the benefit of the Sikhs, who lost no time in making the most of their good fortune. Yahya Khan had tried his best to annihilate them during his short stay of 15 months as Governor of Lahore. But after October 1746, his energies were diverted to his own welfare on account of the activities of Shah Nawaz and Adina Beg. Shah Nawaz Khan was too preoccupied with the confirmation of his command over the Punjab by the Minister at Delhi, to give the Sikhs much trouble. Then when the Afghan threat loomed in January 1748, he had called up Adina Beg from Jalandhar, leaving the Sikhs completely free to raid and occupy large tracts of land in both the Jalandhar and the Bari Doabs. During the two months that Abdali spent marching down from Lahore to the battle at Manupur, the Sikhs were busy taking control over the countryside, and chastising those choudhries who had informed on them. Rama Randhawa of Ghanayan, Harbhagat of Jandiala, Dharamdas of Jodh Nagar, Sanmukh Rai of Wadali, the Khatris of Patti, and the Ranghars of Sheikhupura were amongst those that were put to the sword. Village headmen would inform on Sikhs in future only at their own peril.

Whilst Abdali was engaged at Manupur, Jassa Singh's band swooped upon Amritsar, which was then under the charge of one Salabat Khan. This Commander was slain in the fight and his troops fled, leaving the city and its holy tank in the hands of the Sikhs. The partly earth-filled tank was cleaned up, and the masses were once more able to take their ablutions there.

When Abdali began his retreat from Manupur in March 1748, the Sikh bands under Jassa Singh, Charhat Singh and Karora Singh gave him a taste of the same guerilla raids that had been applied on Nadir Shah. Mir Manu was coming too far behind to bother Ahmed Shah. The Sikhs would swoop down on Abdali's camp at night and make away with baggage and horses. They continued with this harassment till he reached the hanks of the Chenab. Here they stopped because Vaisakhi day that year fell on the 29th March, and they wished to celebrate it at Amritsar.
This was the first Vaisakhi they had celebrated after many years, in complete Freedom, and it also marked a new phase in the organization of the Dal Khalsa. The holocaust of 1746 had shown up the weakness of small groups or jathas fighting under separate leaders.

Excerpts taken from these books.
Sikhism, its philosophy and History, edited by Daljeet Singh and Kharak Singh


Tyrant Lakhpat Rai
Lakhpat Rai was a Diwan(Revenue minister), at Lahore under two successive Mughal viceroys, Zakriya Khan (1726 - 45) and Yahya Khan (1745-47). He came of a Hindu Khatri family of Kalanaur, in Gurdaspur district of the Punjab. In 1736 when Zakariya Khan organized a mobile column of 10,000 to scour the country in search of Sikhs then condemned to indiscriminate murder and slaughter Lakhpat Rai and Mukhlis Khan, the governor's own nephew, were put in command of this force. The Sikhs with their fighting force, the Buddha Dal, were driven to take refuge in the jungles south of Sutlej. They however, soon struck back and Buddha Dal and Taruna Dal jointly fell upon Lakhpat Rai, defeating his mughal column at Hujra Shah Maqim, near Lahore. Among the Mughal officials killed was Lakhpat Rai's nephew Duni Chand. In 1736, Lakhpat Rai was deputed to proceed to Amritsar to molest the Sikhs gathering for the Diwali festival permission for which holding which had been secured from the governor himself. This caused confusion and failure of the revered Bhai Mani Singh to pay the stipulated amount to the Mughal satrap owing to attenuated attendance was made an excuse for his capture and execution (AD 1737). In the eyes of the Sikhs, Lakhpat Rai was principally responsible for the Bhai Mani Singh's martyrdom.

Nadir Shah's invasion of 1739 dealt a severe blow to the Mughal government. Light cavalry bands organized by Zakariya khan to suppress the Sikhs impoverished the peasentry by their extortion as a result of which revenues dwindled and the treasury became empty. Zakariya Khan, holding Diwan Lakhpat Rai responsible for the financial breakdown, imprisoned him for his failure to discharge the dues of the army. But Lakhpat Rai's brother Jaspat, himself an influential courtier paid a large sum from his personal treasure and secured Lakhpat Rai's release and reinstatement. Lakhpat Rai continued as Diwan under Yahiya Khan, when he succeeded Zakariya Khan in 1745. The death of his brother, Jaspat Rai, at the hands of the Sikhs (Nibhau Singh climbed up to his elephant and beheaded him in a skirmish) in 1746 greatly enraged him and he vowed revenge, declaring that he would not put on his headdress, nor claim himself to be a Khatri until he had "Scourged the entire Sikh Panth". As a first step, he had the Sikh inhabitants of Lahore rounded up and ordered their execution. Intercession b a group of prominent Hindu nobles led by Diwan Kaura Mall was of no avail. Lakhpat Rai ignored the request even of his Guru, Sant Jagat Bhagat Gosain, that the killing should not be carried out at least on the Amavas, the last day of the dark half of the month which, falling on a Monday, is especially sacred to the Hindus. Executions took place as ordered on that very day, 13 Chet 1802, 10th March 1746. The angry diwan then set out at the head of a large force, mostly cavalry supported by canon, in search of Sikhs who were reported to have taken shelter in the swampy forest of Kahnuvan, on the right bank of River Beas, 15 km south of Gurdaspur. He also mobilized the local populace in these operations. The besieged Sikhs put up a determined fight but were severely outnumbered and scattered with heavy losses. They were chased into the hills and, "to complete the revenge" says Syed Mohammad Latif, the Muslim Historian of the Punjab, "Lakhpat Rai brought with him 1,000 Sikhs in irons to Lahore, and having compelled them to ride on donkeys, bare backed, paraded them in the bazars. They were, then taken to the horse-market, outside Delhi Gate, and there beheaded one after another without mercy." On this site was later raised a memorial shrine known as Shahid Ganj.

More then Seven thousand Sikhs lost their lives at Kahnuvan (1 May 1746). In Sikh history this devastation is referred to as Chhota Ghalughara or Minor Massacre as distincguished from Vadda Ghalughara or the Great Massacre that took place on 5 February 1762. Lakhpat Rai in order to ensure the total extinction of Sikhs, order their places of worship to be destroyed and their holy books burnt. He decreed that anyone uttering the word guru should have his belly ripped. Considering that the word gur meaning jaggery, sounded like Guru, he prohibited its use.

When in March 1747, Shah Nawaz Khan, brother of Yahya khan and governor of Multan, occupied Lahore, he imprisoned Yahiya Khan and Lakhpat Rai, but Ahmad Shah Durrani who seized Lahore in January 1748 set up a local government in the Punjab, with Jalhe Khan as governor and Lakhpat Rai as his Diwan. The Durrani, defeated Mughals in the battle of Manupuar on 11 March 1748, beat a hasty retreat to his own country, and Muin ul Mulk commonly known as Mir Mannu, became the governor of Lahore. Mir Mannu, imprisoned Jalhe Khan and Lakhpat Rai and appointed Kaural Mall his Deputy and as his Diwan. He demanded from Lakhpat Rai and indemnity of Three Lakh rupees which he was not able to pay. Diwan Kaura Mall who had opposed Lakhpat Rai's repressive policy towards the Sikhs in 1746, now offered to make up the balance provided the prisoner was handed over to him. Mir Mannu agreed and transferred the charge of Lakhpat Rai to Kaura Mall, who gave him into the custody of Dal Khalsa. He was thrown into a dungeon which Sikh army used as a lavatory, there he died a miserable death after Six months of indignity and torture (1748).

Source:Encyclopaedia of Sikhism - Harbans Singh