• Shamsher singh

Bhai Botta Singh and Bhai Garja Singh

Khan Bahadur Zakaria Khan was a Governor of Panjab. During his reign from 1726 to 1745 AD, he had oppressed the Sikhs of Panjab with extreme severity. Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Taru Singh, Bhai Subeg Singh and Sahbaz Singh and countless other Singh and Singhanian were all put to death by Zakaria Khan. Tired of this oppression, when the Sikhs started to form Jathebandhiyaan and Misls, Zakaria Khan tried to reconcile with the Sikhs by making offers of Jagirs to them. But it wasn’t possible for the oppressor and the oppressed to live together. When Nader Shah warned Zakaria Khan about the increasing power of the Sikhs in 1739 AD, he once again took steps to eradicate the Sikhs. The Sikhs fled to the hills of Rajasthan and the Shivalaks. Zakaria Khan believed that Sikhs obtained special power by bathing in the Sarovar at Darbar Sahib, so he denied them from bathing in the holy waters of Amritsar.

Artwork – Param Singh Paintings Despite Zakaria Khan's prohibitory orders, Sikhs went to bathe in the Sarovar night after night. On one of these nights, Botta Singh of Bharana village in district Lahore and his companion Garja Singh Ranghreta were approaching Taran Taran after bathing in the holy tank of Amritsar. Seeing them, two Muslims started whispering. One of them said that these two men were Sikhs. Then the other said, "The Sikhs have already been wiped out by Khan Bahadur. These men are not Sikhs, just look-alikes." What could have been a bigger challenge for the two Singhs? Bhai Botta Singh and Bhai Garja Singh decided to set a base on the road from Tarn Taran to Jhabal near "Sarai Noor Di", a distance of three miles from Tarn Taran itself. This was a common route in those days going from Delhi to Lahore via Sri Goindwal Sahib. They started collecting taxes requiring one penny from each person carrying a load on a donkey and one anna from each cart-peddler. This became a new problem for the Mughal government to deal with. They were challenged with tax being collected not by officials deputed by them. Not only this, but they also wrote a letter addressed to the Begum of Khan Bahadur, a notification of rebellion from their side. Historians have translated it something like this: ਚਿੱਠੀ ਲਿਖੇ ਯੌ ਸਿੰਘ ਬੋਤਾ ਹਥ ਹੈ ਸੋਟਾ, ਵਿਚ ਰਾਹ ਖੜੋਤਾ। ਆਨਾ ਲਾਯਾ ਗੱਡੇ ਨੂੰ ਪੈਸਾ ਲਾਯਾ ਖੋਤਾ। ਆਖ ਭਾਬੀ ਖਾਨੇ ਨੂੰ ਯੇ ਆਖੇ ਸਿੰਘ ਬੋਤਾ। Oh, Botta Singh writing this letter With his hand, a lot like a stick, Standing in the middle of the road, One Anna from the cart peddler, One Paisa from the donkey’s owner, Writing to his sister-in-law, the Khan’s wife, Oh, Botta Singh wrote this letter. The influence of the Sikhs was increasing among the common people. It was not surprising that no one dared to oppose Botta Singh's Chungi tax, nor did anyone report this audacity to the Subehdar of Lahore. Finally, Bhai Botta Singh had to write a letter to Zakaria Khan himself. Khan Bahadur sent his soldier Jalaluddin and a hundred horsemen to capture Bhai Botta Singh. Nearly 101 Mughal soldiers on the one side and two unarmed Sikhs on the other. The battle continued throughout the night When a Mughal soldier went forward to try and kill the Singhs, the Singhs would smash his head with an unforged wooden stick against the bark of the trees. It is hard to find such examples of defiance and courage displayed by these Sikhs anywhere else. Finally, 80 soldiers of the Mughal army were killed by two Singhs overnight. Bhai Botta Singh and Garja Singh also achieved martyrdom. People were surprised learning that two unarmed Sikhs had fought all night with such force and kept 80 soldiers at bay. The courage and valor shown by these two warriors became a lesson for the future generations. This is the fate of those who prohibit the Sikhs from taking a bath in the Amritsar Sarovar. In memory of these fearless warriors, a magnificent Gurdwara Sahib has been built on the south side of the village Noordi, on the road between Sri Taran Taran Sahib to Jhabal. ~ Dr. Gurcharan Singh