Banda Singh Bahadur (1670 - 1716)Next Page
Banda's original name was Lachhman Das. He was born in Kartik 1727 Bikrami Samvat, October-November 1670, four years after the birth of Guru Gobind singh. He belonged either to Kashmir or Punjab. He was a Rajput cultivator. By the time he was just turned 20, his astonishing mind was set on its task. He had a reputation of being a great hunter. One day he killed a doe which immediately delivered itself of two cubs which expired in his presence. The sight shocked him. He renounced worldly life and became a bairagi sadhu or a wandering hermit and ultimately settled at Nander on the banks of river Godavari in Maharashtra. He won great fame as a sorcerer under the name of Madhodas and commanded thousands of followers. Guru Gobind Singh went to his hermitage. Madhodas was away. The Guru ordered his disciples to kill a few goats of the Bairagi and cook meat there and then. The matter was reported to Bairagi. The Guru asked him who he was. Madhodas replied, he was Banda or Guru's slave. The Guru inquired, if he knew whom he was talking to. He said he was none other than Guru Gobind Singh. At that time Banda was 38 years old and Guru ji 42. The Guru encouraged him to give up his present way of living and resume the duties of a real Rajput. In few days the Guru held a durbar, conferred the title of Banda Bahadur on him and appointed him his military lieutenant to punish the Governor of Sarhind who had killed his two youngest sons, and was mainly responsible for the death of his two elder sons, his mother and thousands of Sikhs and Hindus. He was given a council of advisers of Five Sikhs who on their arrival in Punjab were to assure the Sikhs that Banda was Guru's nominee and deputy to organize them in order to lead an expedition against Sarhind. At a durbar held at Nander about the middle of September 1708, the Guru conferred the title of Bahadur on Banda and invested him with full political and military authority as his deputy to carry on the national struggle in the Punjab and to punish Wazir Khan of Sarhind and his supporters. He was supplied with a standard arrow and a drum as symbols of temporal authority. He was given an advisory council of five devoted Khalsa: Baj Singh, a descendant of the family of third Guru, Amar Das, his brother Ram Singh, Binod singh, who descended from Guru Angad Dev second Guru, his son Kahan singh and Fateh Singh. Twenty five soldiers were given to him as his bodyguard. A prescript called Hukumnamah or a letter of authority in the handwriting of the Guru instructing Sikhs to join Banda Bahadur in his national war against Mughal tyranny was provided. As an insignia of his temporal authority invested in him, Guru gave Banda Bahadur his own sword, green bow and Five arrows from his quiver. Three hundred Sikh cavaliers in battle array accompanied Banda to a distance of eight kilometers to give him final send off.
Banda on his journey (1708-1709)
The guru was severely wounded by a Pathan set on the Guru by Wazir Khan with the connivance of the court nobles. The dispatch of Banda to Punjab had infuriated Emperor Bahadur Shah. As a result of his intrigue the Guru passed away on October 7, 1708. Banda had not gone far when he heard the sad news. This did not discourage him. On the contrary it doubled his zeal and set the fire of vengeance ablaze in his heart. Distance between Nander and Hissar in current day Haryana is 1600 KMs. At the rate of 10-16 kms per day Banda should not have taken more than 100 days during his journey, but he actually took about a year. It means that he might have been frequently in hiding. The emperor should have instructed his officers to make short work of Banda and his party. That is why Banda traveled right across Maharashtra and Rajasthan, both of which were in revolt against the Mughals.
Banda in Current day Haryana, 1709
Narnaul: Banda arrived at Narnaul. There he saw the complete destruction of Satnamis with his own eyes. His blood boiled on learning that entire sect of Satnamis, men, women and children, one and all had been wiped out of existence. It was here that Banda suppressed some dacoits and robbers. (this is mentioned in Shri Guru Panth Parkash of Giani Gian Singh, 345-46, 4th edition).
Hissar: He was well received by Hindus and Sikhs as a leader of the nationalist movement and deputy of Guru Gobind singh. Liberal offerings were made to him in the cause of the country and dharam (religion and virtue) which he distributed among poor and needy.
Tohana: Here Banda issued letters to Malwa Sikhs to join him in his crusade against Wazir Khan of Sarhind. Never perhaps in the history of Punjab did the circumstances of the time offered so fair a field to the ambition of a leader, conscious of great talents, and called to the command of a warlike people, only too eager to support him in any enterprise he might undertake. Banda directed his attention to the east towards Delhi. He wanted to leave Mata Sahib devi in Delhi and plunder the Government officials of the fertile area of Haryana. From Kharkhauda about 50 kms north-west of Delhi, Mata Sahib devi was sent to Delhi under proper escort, to join Mata Sundari, who was acting as head of the Khalsa. She might have resented Banda's ignoring her for not having visited her at the capital before starting on his crusade.
Sonepat: At Sonepat, 50 Kms North of Delhi, early in November 1709 Banda commanded about 500 followers. He attacked government treasury plundered it and distributed it among his retinue. This was his second success against the government and it considerably raised his prestige. By slow marches he advanced towards Sarhind.
Kaithal: Near Kaithal, about 100 kms further North, Banda seized a Government treasury which was its way from the northern districts to Delhi. He kept nothing out of it for himself and gave it away to his rank and file.
Samana: Samana, 50 kms farther North was the native place of Jalal-ud-did Jallad, the professional executioner, who had beheaded Guru Tegh Bahadur, while his son had beheaded two younger sons of Guru Gobind singh. Ali Hussain who by false promises had lured Guru Gobind singh to evacuate Anandpur also belonged to Samana. It was an accursed place in the eyes of Sikhs. The entire peasantry of the neighborhood was now up in arms, and Banda's following had risen to several thousands. Banda fell upon the town on November 26, 1709. The inhabitants were massacred in cold blood and town thoroughly squeezed. Samana was the district town and had nine Parganahs attached to it. It was placed under the charge of Fateh Singh. Samana was the first territorial conquest and the first administrative unit of Banda. Then Kunjpura, Ghuram, and Thaska inhabited by Muslim Ranghars notirious for rape and rapine were destroyed. People who were born out of Muslim father and Hindu mother were called Ranghars. Damla was the village of Pathans who had deserted Guru Gobind singh ji in the battle of Bhangani, It was ravaged. Shahbad Markanda also fell to Banda.
Sadhaura: Usman Khan , the chief of Sadhaura 25 kms distant, had persecuted Sayyid Budhu Shah for helping Guru Gobind singh ji in the battle of Bhangani. The muslim population maltreated the local Hindus. On the approach of Banda the leading Muslims gathered in a big and strongly built mansion. They were all massacred. This building came to be known as Katal Garhi. Banda attacked the town and destroyed it. The contemporary historian Khafi Khan wrote: "In two or three months time four to five thousands pony-riders, and seven to eight thousand warlike footmen joined him. Day by day their number increased, and abundant money and material by pillage fell into their hands. Numerous villages were laid waste and he appointed his own police officers (thanedars) and collectors of revenue (Tahsil-dar-e-mal)".
Lohgarh: The ultimate aim of Banda was to punish Wazir Khan and conquer Sarhind. It required time to consolidate his material and territorial gains. He also wanted to study military resources of Sarhind. He was anxious to see what steps government will take against him. He therefore established his headquarters, in the beginning of February 1710, at Mukhlispur situated in lower Shiwalik hills south of Nahan, about 20 KM from Sadhaura. His fort stood on a hill top. Two kuhls or water channels flowed at its base and supplied water to it. This fort was repaired and put in a state of defense. All the money, gold and costly material acquired in these expeditions were deposited here. He struck coins and issued orders under his seal. The name of Mukhlispur was changed to Lohgarh, and it became the capital of first Sikh state. Banda ruled over the region bounded on the north by Shiwalik hills, on the west by river Tangri, on the east by river Jamuna, and in the south by a line passing through Samana, Thanesar, Kaithal and Karnal. He abolished the Zamindari System of land prevailing under the Mughals and declared the actual cultivators as the owners of land. Thus he established the peasant proprietorship, and won approbation and support of the overwhelming majority of the population. Khafi Khan says that Banda "issued orders to imperial officers and agents and big jagirdars to submit and give up their business." So Guru Gobind singh's dream of political sovereignty was realized within a year of his death. Banda's name struck terror into the hearts of lawless people, and thefts and dacoity became a thing of the past. "In all the paraganahs occupied by the Sikhs," writes Irvine, "The reversal of 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, when in a short time he would return to his birthplace as its ruler with his order and his order of appointment in his hand. As soon as he set foot within the boundaries the wealthy and well-born went out to greet him and with joined palms awaited his orders. Not a soul could disobey an order, and men who had often risked themselves in battlefields, became so cowed down that they were afraid even to remonstrate.
Invasion of Sarhind and establishment of first Sikh state
Banda's Troops Banda devoted three months in organizing his civil and military administration. Bahadur Shah was still away from Delhi. The Delhi Government had made no attempt to recover their lost territory from him. Wazir Khan of Sarhind was making his own preparations independently to meet the danger from Banda. Banda's troops consisted of two classes of people. The old Sikhs who had fought under Guru Gobind Singh joined him purely to punish Wazir Khan. Eventhough Guru Gobind Singh had only sent Banda Bahadur to punish those who had committed atrocities against Pir Buddhu Shah and sane saints, it was the love of Guru Gobind singh and Sahibzade's that many Sikhs zealously to avenge the murder of the Guru Gobind Singh's young sons alligned themselves with Banda. They also wished to see the fulfillment of the Guru's prophecy for Sikh sovereignty in Punjab. They numbered about five thousands. Another class of Sikhs of about the same number comprised of young men who wanted to punish and plunder the enemies of their faith. The third group of Hindu jats, Gujars and Rajputs of about five thousand were intent on plunder alone. Most of them were untrained, raw levies, not fully armed. Banda possessed no elephants, no good horses and no guns. His followers had matchlocks, spears, swords, bows and arrows. According to Khafi Khan the number of Sikhs had risen to thirty to forty thousands.
Wazir Khan's Preparations
Wazir Khan had proclaimed a jihad or a holy war against Banda. He was joined by the Nawab of Malerkotla, all the other Muslim chiefs and jagirdars as well as Ranghars in large numbers. Majority of his soldiers were trained men. Wazir Khan's own forces were six thousand horsemen, eight to nine thousand musketeers (burqandaz) and archers, and with these about ten guns of artillery and many elephants. In addition there were about ten thousand Ghazis. The total number of their troops was about thirty thousands. Banda advanced from Lohgarh and halted at Banur, near Ambala, 14 Kms from Rajpura. The muslims of that town used to seize cows and oxen of Hindus and slaughter them in their presence. Banda sacked it, and then went towards Sarhind.
The Battle of Sarhind, May 12, 1710 A.D.
The battle was fought at Chhappar Chiri, 20 kms from Sarhind. On the Mughal side Sher Muhammad Khan, Nawab of Malerkotla was the leader of the right wing. Wazir Khan was in command of the center. Suchanand, chief secretary of nawab was put on the left. On the Sikh side, Baj singh Bal a jutt of village Mirpur in Patti distt. of Amritsar, headed right wing. Binod Singh (descendent of Guru Angad Dev ji) headed the left wing while Banda commanded the center facing the Wazir Khan's army. Shouts of Sachcha Padishah, Fateh Darshan (Sat Sri Akal was changed to Fateh Darshan by Banda), Sat Sri Akal, Akal, Akal, and ya ali, rent the sky. Suchanand could not withstand the ferocity of Baj singh and soon vanquished and fled away. The artillery fire of the Mughals told heavily on the plunderers in Banda's camp. They were equally divided between Baj singh and Binod singh's forces. Sher Mohammed Khan was about to overpower Binod singh's wing when he was suddenly struck by a bullet and was instantly killed. His men immediately dispersed. Wazir Khan was rushing upon Banda who stuck fast to his ground and discharged arrows relentlessly. There a bloody battle was going on. Baj singh and Binod singh now joined Banda. Banda and the Sikh leaders now converged on Wazir Khan and he was killed. Wazir Khan's death is variously described. Khafi Khan says that he was struck by a Musket ball. Mir Mohammed Ahsan Ijad says that Baj singh rushed upon Wazir Khan. Wazir Khan threw his spear at Baj singh. Baj singh caught hold of it. He flung the same spear upon Wazir Khan. It struck the forehead of his horse. Wazir Khan discharged an arrow which hit Baj singh's arm. He then rushed upon him with his sword. At this juncture Fatah singh came to the rescue of Baj singh. His sword cut the Khan from shoulder to the waist.
Pursuit of fugitives:
Wazir Khan's head was stuck up on a spear and lifted high up by a Sikh who took his seat in the deceased's howdah (a seat atop of elephant). The Sikhs with one voice and in wild excitement raised the sky-rending shouts of Sat-Sri-Akal. The Sarhind's troops on beholding the Nawab's head took alarm, and trembling fled helter skelter in dismay and despair. The Sikhs fell upon them and there was a terrible carnage. Sikhs reached Sarhind by nightfall. The gates of the city were closed. The guns mounted on the walls of the fort commenced bombardment. The Sikhs laid siege to the place. They took rest in the night. Wazir Khan's family and many Muslim nobles fled to Delhi at night. By next afternoon Sikhs forced open the gates and fell upon the city. The Government treasury and moveable property worth two crores fell into Banda's hand which was removed to Lohgarh. Several Muslims saved their lives by embracing Sikhism. Dindar Khan son of Jalal Khan Rohilla became Dindar Singh. The official newswriter of Sarhind Mir Nasir-ud-din changed his name to Mir Nasir singh. (Yar Mohammand, Dastur-ul insha, page 37, Persian)
Province of Sarhind occupied
Entire province of Sarhind consisting of twenty-eight paraganahs and extending from Satluj to the Jamuna and from the Shiwalik hills to Kunjpura, Karnal to Kaithal, yielding 52 lakhs (1 lakh = 100,000 Rupees) annualy came into Banda's possession. Baj Singh was appointed governor of Sarhind. Ali singh was made his deputy. Their chief responsibility was to be on guard against the Mughal troops from Lahore and Jammu. Fatah singh retained charge of Samana. Ram singh, brother of Baj singh became chief of Thanesar. Binod singh in addition to his post of the revenue minister, was entrusted with the administration of Karnal and Panipat. His main duty was to guard the road from Delhi. Banda retired to his capital at Lohgarh. His era began from May 12, 1710, the date of his victory in the battle of Sarhind. The Zamindari system was abolished in the whole province at one stroke.
Banda advances towards Lahore, June 1710
Having set up administrative machinery, Banda advanced from Sarhind to Malerkotla. The town was saved for a ransom of two lakhs on the recommendation of Kishan Das Banya, an old acquaintance of Banda. From there he marched to Morinda. He chastised the Brahmins and Ranghars who had made over Guru Gobind singh's mother and his two youngest son to Wazir Khan. Then he visited Kiratpur and Anandpur to pay homage to shrines. He took Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar and carried fire and sword everywhere. Banda crossed the Beus and fell upon Batala. Then, he went on a pilgrimage to Dera Baba Nanak. At Amritsar Banda made large offerings. He invited young men to embrace Sikhism promising remission of land revenue and other rewards. Then many from the area of Majha joined the Khalsa. Banda marched towards Lahore. Sayyid Islam Khan, the Governor mounted guns on the walls of city. Banda laid a siege, but was unable to force upon the walls of fort. Lahore must have fallen, but Banda was in hurry to look after his government. Thus entire city remained safe owing to its fortifications. But the entire suburbs for miles around was completely devastated. In this campaign Banda was joined by thousands of low caste Hindus who came into the fold of Khalsa.