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Sikh Martyrs

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was the first Singh King who established Sikh rule in a large part of Punjab. Lachhman Das was his childhood name. He was born to Rajput parents. He wa very fond of hunting in his early life. One he hunted a she dear who was pregnant. The dying animal gave birth to two kids who also died along with their mother before the eyes of Lachhman Das.

He was thoroughly shaken by the incident and ovecome with grief, he renounced the world and became a Bairagi Sadhu adopting first one Janki Das as his Guru, and later some others, but none of them being true Guru, could provide him peace of mind. He turned to tantric sadhus and acquired some miracle powers. With the help of these miracles powers he was able to recruit a number of persons as his agent disciples. Through them, he established his popularity among the simple minded people around his Ashram on the bank of river Godavri. None benefitted from his miracles. He rather used those miracles to sub due and humiliate religious leaders and other famous saints of the atea who ever happened to visit his Ashram. Guru Gobind Singh while travelling towards South India from North along with some Sikhs, visited Lachhman Das’s Ashram and in his absence, sat on his beautifully decorated cot.
On his return to the Ashram, Lachhman Das could not tolerate Guru Gobind Singh occupying his seat. He along with his disciples tried all their tantric miracles to overturn the cot occupied by Guru Gobind Singh, in order to humiliate and punish him for his daring act but failed to cause any harm to the new unknown visitor. No trick worked on the Guru. He kept sitting on smilingly.

Accepting defeat, Lachhman Das Bairagi fell at the feet of Guru Gobind Singh and asked forgiveness and said, “O, Guru Ji, I am your Banda (Slave)”. Show me light and put me on the right path. I am at your service and am prepared to do anything at your bidding.

Guru Gobind Singh taught him the basic principles of sikh religion and administered Amrit to Lachhman Das, admitting him to Sikh fold. The Guru renamed him as Banda Singh. Guru Ji’s Amrit changed Lachhman Das’s life completely. He was no longer a wicked bairagi troubling humiliating innocent people, but was now a brave Sikh of the tenth Master.

Guru Gobind Singh sent Banda Singh on a mission to Punjab to punish the guilty and cruel rulers of the time. He was provided with five brave Sikhs as advisors. He was also provided with necessay weapons.
Fully armed and accompanied by brave Sikhs and Guru Ji’s blessing, banda Singh proceeded on his mission towards Punjab. With the help of Guru’s Hukumnamas (Orders) to Sikh community to help and join Banda Singh in his assigned mission, thousands of armed Sikhs joined him. The rulers of Punjab were already well aware of fighting qualities of the Sikhs and were thus terrified to face them.

Within a short time, Sikh forces, under the leadership of brave Banda Singh, put to death many tyrant rulers, including Nazab Wazir Khan who was responsible for putting to death the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh in a most in human manner. Cruel rulers and their associates were singled out systematically, picked up and punished for their crimes against humanity.

Banda Singh captured large part of Punjab and established sikh rule there. He minted coins in the name of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Guru Gobing Singh ji, In the meantime, Faruksaiyar became the Emperor at Delhi. He was angered by the defeat of Mughtal forces at the hands of Banda Singh everywhere. He sent a large force from Delhi and mobilised forces from eleswhere in Punjab to defeat and capture Baba Banda Singh.

The Sikh forces were ultimately beseiged by overwhelming number of Mughal forces in the fortess of Gurdas Nangal. The Sikhs fought valiantly under the leadership of Baba Banda Singh inflicting heavy casualties on the Moghul army. However, due to prolonged encircling of the fortess by superior number of forces, the Sikh forces were left with no rations. They were forced to eat tree leaves to sustain themselves. Due to this, they became too weak to fight the enemy.

Ultimately, the brave Sikh general Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was arrested along with seven hundred Sikh soldiers and brought to Delhi, where they were mounted on ponies, insulted and paraded in the Bazars of Delhi.
The Sikhs were offered amnesty if they accepted conversion to Islam. Not one among them accepted this offer of lease of life. As such they were tortured and done to death publicly. They died in high spirits, sticking to their faith.
Finally before Baba Banda Singh was butchered most mercilessly by the tyrant rulers, his four years old son was put ot death in front of Baba Banda Singh, by cutting open his abdomen. His heart was taken out and thrust into the mouth of Baba Banda Singh. But even this most inhuman and cruel act of tyrant rulers failed to break Baba Ji’s resolve and determination. He remained composed as ever. Finally, he was put to death most mercilessly by pinching the flesh from his body, bit by bit, by means of heated pincers.

Thus came to an end and eventful chapter of Sikh History when the tyrant Moghul rulers tasted defeat after defeat for a number of years at the hand of Sikhs under the leadership of the first Sikh General Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. The Guru thus demonstrated to the people the true strength of mind and body of those who had partaken Amrit and how a Bairagi who was notorious and aimless, could turn out to be a brave person with credible achievements.

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Baba Banda Singh Bahadur

Shaheed Baba Banda Singh Bahadur came to the Punjab scene in 1708 when the Mughal government was planning the genocide of the Sikhs, but the daring deeds of the Khalsa under his leadership made the Sikhs the rulers of the eastern region of the state.

Banda was born on 16 October 1670 at Rajori Village in Jammu. He was named Lachman Das. Wrestling, horseback riding, and hunting were his major hobbies. As a young man he shot a deer and was shocked to watch the mother and her aborted doe writhing in pain and dying. After this gloomy scene he had a change of heart. He left his home and became a disciple of a Bairagi sadhu who gave him the name Madho Das. In the company of the sadhus he traveled to Nanded, situated on the bank of the river Godawari, where he built a hut to meditate upon God.

Banda joins Khalsa Panth

In September of 1708, Guru Gobind Singh happened to go to Madho Das’ hut while hunting. Madho Das was impressed by the personality of the Guru. The Guru asked him, “Who are you?” In great humility, he replied, “I am your banda (slave).” After taking Amrit, he was given a Sikh name, Gurbakhsh Singh – but he remained popular known as Banda. Historians, therefore, mention him as Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, or simply as Banda Bahadur.

Guru Gobind Singh hoped that Emperor Bahadur Shah would fulfill his promise and do justice in the Punjab by punishing the Governor of Sirhind and his accomplices for their crimes against the people. Finding him reluctant, the Guru deputed Banda Bahadur, under the leadership of five Sikhs, to end state terrorism in the Punjab.

On his way to the Punjab, Banda punished robbers and other criminal elements which made him popular with the people. Banda possessed no army. Instead, his strength lay in the Hukamnama (edict) of Guru Gobind Singh to the people of Punjab, calling them to arms under the leadership of Banda to overthrow and destroy the oppressive rulers. This sent such a wave of relief and enthusiasm among the people that some even sold their bullocks and property to purchase arms. Not only the Sikhs saw Banda as their deliverer but the oppressed Muslims and Hindus also joined him in the popular revolt against the tyrants.

Victories of Banda Bahadur

Banda had approximately 500 men with him when he reached the borders of the Punjab. He easily took over two centers, Sonepat and Kaithal. Meanwhile, more people joined him. Samana, a large Mughal city famous for minting coins, was conquered on 11 November 1709. About 20,000 people are said to have been killed there. With the treasury in their hands, the Sikhs became financially stable. Two other army centers, Mustafabad and Sadhora (near Jagadhari), were also taken.

These victories of the Sikhs sent a clear signal of coming events to Wazir Khan, the Governor of Sirhind. He knew that justice was about to be delivered and he would soon be punished for his crimes. Wazir Khan lost his sleep and started collecting his army and ammunition. He sent urgent orders to all the commanders in the region, and also recruited mercenaries.

Another jatha of the Sikhs gathered near Anandpur Sahib and marched towards Sirhind but their advance was blocked by a section of the state army. A bloody battle took place at Ropar (Roop Nagar) in which both of the Mughal commanders were killed. Afterwards, there was nobody to check the jatha from joining Banda. The Sikhs were now ready for their final battle to become the rulers of the Cis-Satlej areas of the Punjab.

The Sikhs, although they did not have the required arms to defeat the army, were emotionally charged with the memory of the cold-blooded murder of the two youngest sons of Guru Gobind Singh at Sirhind. They attacked the city on 12 May 1710 and were its masters on 14 May. The death of Wazir Khan and his lackeys brought a long awaited relief to the people. In his first administrative order, Banda gave the ownership of the land to the farmers and let them live in dignity and self respect.

Petty officials were also satisfied with this change. Nawab Ameen-Ul Daula mentions the new image of the Sikhs in these words: “Dindar Khan, an official of the nearby village, took Amrit and became Dindar Singh. The newspaper writer of Sirhind, Mir Nasir Uddin, became Mir Nasir Singh.”

Founding of the Khalsa Rule

In the north-east of the Punjab, between Sadhora and Nahan, Banda developed the village Mukhlis Garh, made it his capital and renamed it Lohgarh (fortress of steel). He established his own mint. One side of the coin reads: The power of the sword granted by Guru Nanak won the two worlds. Guru Gobind Singh became victorious by the grace of the True Lord. The other side reads: Issued from the beautiful capital of Good Luck, a place of peace for the world. The official papers were identified by the stamp: The authority for service was received from Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh.

Banda sent Sikhs to the Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), a large state to the north of Delhi, because of charges against many state officials and administrators regarding repression of the people, particularly of harassment of non-Muslims. The Sikhs took over Saharanpur, Jalalabad, and other areas nearby, bringing relief to the population.

Also, in the west of the Satlej, and in the regions of Jallandar and Amritsar, the Sikhs started fighting for the rights of the people. They used the newly established power of the people to remove many corrupt officials, and replaced them with honest ones.

The march of the Emperor

The rule of the Sikhs over eastern Punjab obstructed the communication between Delhi and Lahore, the capital of Punjab, and it worried Emperor Bahadur Shah. He gave up his plan to subdue the rebels in Rajasthan and marched towards Punjab. The entire Indian force was organized to defeat and kill Banda Bahadur. The governors were ordered to immediately dispatch their armies to the Punjab, and new fighters were recruited. All the generals were directed to join the Emperor’s army. To ensure that there were no Sikh agents in the army camps, an order was issued on August 29, 1710 to all Hindus to shave off their beards. The emperor knew that the Sikhs loyal to their faith would not cut their beards, hence would leave his army, and would not be able to spy.

Meanwhile, the Sikhs, after taking Sirhind and founding their capital, spread to different regions in U.P. and Punjab. Banda, himself, was in U.P. when the army marched to Sirhind. Before the return of Banda, they had already taken Sirhind and the areas around it. The Sikhs, therefore, moved to Lohgarh for their final battle. As soon as the emperor’s army reached there, the Sikhs fell upon them and defeated them.

Khafi Khan writes, “The sudden attack of the fakirs (Sikhs) threatened the army seriously. Watching their dead and wounded, one could conclude that the army is losing the battle.” Kanwar Khan describes the battle in these words: “I saw with my eyes every wretched Sikh jumping out of his trench, attacking the soldiers bravely and dying fearlessly.”

However, ever increasing supplies of men and materials to the army generals fighting Banda, helped them to take over the fort. Sikhs lost two of their commanders and 2,500 men. Baba Banda Singh left the fort at night and went to a secret place in the hills.

The failure of the army to kill or catch Banda shocked the Emperor. On 10 December 1710 he ordered that, wherever a Sikh was found, he should be murdered. The Emperor lost his mental balance, became sick and died on 18 February 1712.

Banda takes over Hill Rajas

Banda wrote letters to the Sikhs to get themselves reorganized and form groups to fight state repression. The Sikhs gathered near Keeratpur and defeated Raja Bhim Chand in the Spring of 1711. He was responsible for organizing all the hill rajas against Guru Gobind Singh and instigating battles with him. Bhim having been completely routed, other rajas willingly accepted their subordinate status, and paid revenues to Banda.

When the new Emperor, Farakhsyar, sent a strong force to arrest him, Banda moved away from the Punjab to the Jammu hills, where he stayed for about a year.

Arrest of Banda Bahadur

In March 1715, Baba Ji entered the Punjab near Gurdaspur. He was in the village of Gurdas Nangal, when the army laid siege to it. The Sikhs fought bravely and defended the small fort for eight months. Mohd Quasim writes:


The brave and daring deeds of the infernal Sikhs were amazing. Twice or thrice a day, some forty or fifty Sikhs would come out of their enclosure to gather grass for their animals. When the combined forces of the imperialists went to oppose them, they made an end of the Mughals with arrows, muskets, and swords. Such was the terror of the Sikhs, that the commanders of the royal army prayed that God might so ordain things that Banda should seek his safety in flight from the village.


However, on 7 December 1715, the exhausted and starving Sikhs were tricked when Banda was approached to reconcile with the Government and meet the commander to discuss the terms for making him the Governor of Jammu. He was arrested instead and put in an iron cage. Other Sikhs were captured, chained and brought to Delhi in a procession. Along with 700 Sikh prisoners from the Punjab, there were 2,000 Sikhs heads hung on spears at the head of the procession to terrorize the population.

They were put in the Delhi fort and pressured to give up their faith and become Muslims. On their firm refusal all of them were ordered to be executed. Every day, one hundred Sikhs were brought out of the fort and murdered in public. This horrible butchering of the Sikhs was witnessed and documented by many. The brave Sikhs showed no sign of dejection or humiliation, instead they sang their sacred hymns; none feared death or gave up his faith. The British Embassy at Delhi recorded, “It is not a little remarkable with what patience they undergo their fate and to the last it has not been found that one apostatized from this new formed religion.”

According to a Muslim historian, a nobleman received permission to see Banda Singh Bahadur before he was executed. He asked Banda Singh, “It is surprising that one who shows so much acuteness in his features and so much nobility in his conduct, should have been guilty of such horrors.” With the greatest composure, Banda replied, “I will tell you, whenever men become so corrupt and wicked as to relinquish the path of equity and to abandon themselves to all kinds of excesses, then the Providence never fails to raise up a scourge like me to chastise a race so depraved; but when the measure of punishment is full then he raises up men like you to bring him to punishment.”

On 9 June 1716, Banda’s eyes were gouged, his limbs severed, his skin removed and then he was killed.

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur thus became a martyr. A Bairagi, having become an Amritdhari Sikh, committed himself to live as a protector of the rights of the people. He offered his own life while fighting the tyranny of the state. Though his rule was short-lived, reforms brought about by him still exist today. Banda Singh demonstrated that the people have within them the power to topple tyrannical rulers.

Subsequently, the people, guided by the Khalsa, destroyed the oppressive rulers of Punjab and became the masters of their state.

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