Friday, December 09, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

Thomas, George
Irish Soldier Of Fortune (1756-1802)

Deserted the British navy in India in 1781 in which he had served as a gunner. He first joined a band of mountain robbers in south India and then took up service in the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad as a gunner, but soon afterwards came to Delhi where he secured employment under Begam Samru, who had married a European adventurer and succeeded to his jagir at Sardhana, in Uttar Pradesh. Serving under her for six years, Thomas left her to join the Maratha army under Appa Khande Rao. He raised troops for the Marathas and instructed them in the European system of drill. He was rewarded with the grant of a jagir comprising the district of Jhajjar. Here he built a fort which he named Georgegarh. After some time, he broke away from the Marathas and sought in 1797 the help of the Sikh chiefs against them.

In 1798, he established himself at Hansi and carved out an independent kingdom in the wastelands of Haryana. From Hansi, he ruled over Hissar, Hansi, Sirsa and Rohtak. In 1799, he attacked Jind and defeated the combined forces of the chiefs of Patiala, Kaithal, Jind, Ladva and Thanesar and imposed upon them his own terms for friendship. But soon after he broke the truce and took possession of Fatehabad and pillaged the Sikh territories of Bhavanigarh, Sunam, and Narangval. He invaded Kaithal and Safidon, but was halted at the latter place and defeated.

In 1801, a force, 12,000 strong, under Louis Bourquien, a French officer in the service of the Marathas, joined by the Sikh contingents of Jind and Kaithal, drove George Thomas to Hansi which was laid under siege. Bourquien asked Thomas to surrender, offering him a position in Daulat Rao Scindia's army. Thomas refused, vacated Hansi and marched off to Georgegarh. The whole of Bourquien's army, now reinforced to 20,000 men, came in pursuit of him. Outnumbered by the Maratha forces, Thomas surrendered to Louis Bourquien on 1 January 1802, but was allowed to retire to British territory. En route to Calcutta, he died of a fever on board his pinnace at Berhampore, West Bengal, on 22 August 1802.

Source: TheSikhEncyclopedia.Com

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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