PAYING HOMAGE TO BABA BANDA SINGH BAHADUR JI: THE FOUNDER OF SIKH RULE ON 306th MARTYRDOM DAY (JUNE
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji (1670-1716)
, a brave Sikh warrior and founder of the Sikh Rule in Punjab was born on October 27, 1670 at Rajauri in Punchh District of Jammu and Kashmir. His early name was Lachhman Dev. His father Ram Dev Ji, a Rajput farmer trained him in martial arts in early childhood. At the age of fifteen, the sight of a dying pregnant doe during one of his hunting excursions made him leave his home as penitence and become an ascetic. He joined Bairagi Ram Das who named him 'Madho Das'. After his extensive tours he settled in the Panchvati woods near Nasik in Maharashtra. Later on, he established a math (monastery) of his own in Nanded, Maharashtra on the left bank of river Godavari. It was here that he came in contact with Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh Guru who happened to visit his monastery on September 3, 1708. After some discourse, he fell at the feet of Guru Sahib pronouncing himself as his banda i.e. slave. He was immediately converted to the Sikh faith. Guru Sahib named him 'Banda Singh' and bestowed upon him a drum, a banner and five arrows as symbols of authority. At the site of his meeting with Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Gurdwara Baba Banda Bahadur Ghat, Nanded has been established. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji along with five Sikhs - Binod Singh, Kahan Singh, Baj Singh, Daya Singh and Ram Singh set out towards the north with a determination to chastise the tyrannical Mughal faujdar of Sirhind Wazir Khan and other tyrannical imperial officers who were persecuting Hindus and Sikhs compelling them to come into the fold of Islam. On reaching Punjab, wherever he went the Sikhs welcomed him and gave him their full support. On November 26, 1709 he attacked Samana in Patiala District of Punjab, the native town of (i) Jalal ud-Din, the executioner of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the ninth Sikh Guru and (ii) of the two executioners Shashal Beg and Bashal Beg who had beheaded Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji's two younger sons Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji and Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji aged 7 years and 9 years respectively at Sirhind. After conquering Samana he occupied Ghurham, Thaska, Shahabad and Mustfabad. After this he razed to the ground the town of Kapuri in Haryana whose faujdar Qadam ud-Din was persecuting Hindus and Sikhs and was indulging in debaucheries. His next mission was to punish Usman Khan, the chief of Sadhaura, which presently falls in Ambala District of Haryana, who was notorious for persecuting Hindus and Sikhs. On March 21, 1704 Usman Khan had tortured to death the muslim saint Sayyid Buddhu Shah, who taking along with him 700 of his followers, his brother and four sons had helped Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji in the battle of Bhangani in Himachal Pradesh. The Hindus of this place had complained to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur that they were not allowed to cremate their dead or to perform any other religious ceremony. They also said that cows were slaughtered before their houses and their blood and entrails were left in the streets which had compelled some Hindus to leave this place. In a fierce battle which took place at Sadhaura Usman Khan was killed. In Sadhaura to commemorate the bravery of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur a Gurdwara named Quilla Gurdwara has been established. Before attacking Sirhind, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji took a long route to seek the support of the Sikhs from Doaba and Majha. On his call, the Sikhs came forward and gave him their full support because they wanted to avenge the killing of the two younger sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji who had been bricked alive in a wall at Sirhind on the orders of Wazir Khan. His aim was (i) to avenge the killing of the two younger sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji whom Wazir Khan, the imperial faujdar of Sirhind had first ordered to be sealed alive in a wall, and who were later on executed by his orders at Sirhind and (ii) put an end to the Mughal imperialism under which Hindus and Sikhs were being forcibly converted to Islam. On May 12, 1710 to conquer Sirhind he attacked the imperial forces at Chapar Chiri which are twin villages (Chapar Chiri Large and Chapar Chiri Small) in Kharar Tehsil of District Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, Punjab which are at a distance of about 20 kms from Sirhind. Wazir Khan who had 25,000 warriors at his command had reached Chapar Chiri. A fierce battle took place. Toward the end of this battle as the author of Ahwal-i-Salatin-i Hind has stated "The Sikhs came face to face with the Mohammedans... Wazir Khan then came face to face with Baj Singh saying 'be careful, you dirty dog'. " In the meantime, Fateh Singh took out his sword and struck Wazir Khan so strongly that it passed through his shoulder down to his waist and his head fell to the ground. To commemorate this victory Gurdwara Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji has been established between Chapar Chiri Large and Chapar Chiri Small. On May 14, 1710 Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji and his troopscaptured the city of Sirhind and razed it to the ground. The province of Sirhind at that time extended from Karnal to Ludhiana. This victory named as Sirhind Victory virtually paved the way for Khalsa Raj which ended with Maharaja Dulip Singh, the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1849. At the place of execution of Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji which is 5 kms north of Sirhind the city named Fatehgarh Sahib was established and at the exact site of execution Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib has been established. By this time Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji was the virtual master of territories between Yamuna and Sutlej. After the victory of Sirhind, he made Mukhlisgarh, which falls in-between Sadhaura and Nahan in the Himalayas as his headquarters and renamed it 'Lohgarh'. Fort of Lohgarh in this way became the first capital of Sikh Raj (Rule). He introduced new coins and a new calendar dating from May 14, 1710. He put an end to the feudal system. After crossing Yamuna, he seized Saharanpur in U.P. in the summer of 1710 after which he returned to Punjab and conquered Batala and Kalanaur in Gurdaspur District of Punjab and marched towards Lahore. The Governor of Lahore Syyid Aslam was so much awe stricken that he shut himself in a fort. By now, except for the city of Lahore the whole of Majha and Riarki were under his command. On Oct 3, 1710 he occupied Rahon in Jalandhar Doab. His increasing power and influence roused the anger of the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah (Rule 1707-1712) who came from the Deccan and commanded the Governors of Delhi and Oudh and other Mughal officers to punish the Sikhs. The Sikhs were so much on Bahadur Shah's brain that he looked at every bearded man with suspician. On September 8, 1710, he issued an order that 'all Hindus employed in the imperial offices should get their beards shaved because he was afraid that Sikhs may be disguised in them. On December, 10, 1710 Bahadur Shah issued orders to all of his faujdars to kill 'worshippers of Nanak' i.e. the Sikhs wherever found. As per the imperial orders all Government officers were ordered to kill Sikhs wherever found. The Sikhs were handed over to the Mughal soldiers in lieu of pay who sold them in the horse-market (nakhas) at Lahore where they were butcherd. Even in the face of the imperial order of killing of all Sikhs Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji was tolerant towards the Muslims. Thus, 5000 Muslim in the areas surrounding Kalanaur and Batala joined his army. These muslims were allowed to shout their religious call azan and recite khutba and namaz in the army of Sikhs. In the face of the imperial orders, the Sikhs in Sirhind and other places were compelled to take shelter in the Fort of Lohgarh. But the imperial forces which included 60,000 soldiers besieged this fort. Due to lack of sufficient provisions, the Sikh soldiers were getting desperate. On the night of December 10, 1710 BabaBanda Singh Bahadur Ji escaped Lohgarh and took control of the States of Bilaspur, Mandi, Kullu and Chamba in Himachal Pradesh. In June 1711, he came down to the plains and defeated the Mughal troops at Bahrampur near Jammu and then again returned to the hilly areas. Ghulam Husain Khan in his book Siyar-ulMutaakherin written in Persian language has reported that towards the end of his life Bahadur Shah lost his mental balance and gave some very ridiculous orders such as killing of all dogs and donkeys in the city and removal of all faqirs from the city. He became melancholic and died on February 27, 1712. After Bahadur Shah's death Jahandar Shah ascended the throne for a few months. On January 10, 1713 Farrukh-Siyar who ascended the throne accelerated the campaign against the Sikhs. The Sikhs were forced to leave Sadhaura and Lohgarh. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji fought the last battle with the Mughals at the village of Gurdas Nangal 6 kms from Gurdaspur where the main column led by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji was subjected to a severe siege. Due to lack of food supplies his warriors had to live on grass, leaves and bark of the trees. On December 7, 1715 after 8 months of difficult conditions he had to surrender. He along with his followers was taken prisoner. About 200-300 Sikhs were bound hand-and-foot and handed over to the Mughal and Tartar soldiery, who killed them with their swords. Their blood filled the battle field as if it was a dish full of blood. The heads of the dead Sikhs were stuffed with hay and mounted on spears. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji was first taken to Lahore and paraded in a gruesome manner in the streets of Lahore. Then heavily chained, enclosed in a cage which was set on an elephant he was sent to Delhi by road along with 740 prisoners in heavy chains seated on camels (two on each camel tied together wherein one hand of each of them was tied to his neck), 700 cart loads of heads of Sikhs, with another 2000 heads of Sikhs stuck upon pikes. All of them were given food only when they fainted because of hunger. The amount of food was as little could keep their breath going. Cunningham in his book A History of the Sikhs (1849) has stated that, 'Banda (Singh) and others were sent to Delhi under such miscreable conditions that only vulgar and semi-barbarian victors could do. This gruesome cavalcade arrived in Delhi on February 27, 1716 and was taken through the main bazars of Delhi. From Agharabad to Lohori Gate in Delhi thousands of Muslims had lined up on the road-side who cut dirty jokes and taunted the Sikhs. In Delhi, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji along with about two dozen leading Sikhs was imprisoned in the Fort while the remaining 740 were handed over to the kotwal Sarbrah Khan to be executed at the Kotwali Chabutra opposite Delhi Railway Station at the rate of 100 a day. The butchering of the 740 Sikhs started on March 5, 1716. Each of them courted death with pleasure and reciting Gurbani (sacredhymns). Mirza Mohammed Harisi, the author of Ibratnama, who was present in Delhi during these scenes, writes that : "Such a crowd in the bazars and lanes had rarely been seen. The Mussalmans could hardly contain themselves for joy. But the unfortunate Sikhs, who had been reduced to this condition, were quite happy and contented with their lot. Not the slightest sign of dejection or humiliation was visible on their faces. In fact, most of them, as they passed along on their camels, seemed to be happy and cheerful, merrily singing their sacred hymns. If anyone from the lane called out to them that their own excesses had brought them where they were, they quickly retorted that it had been so decreed by the Almighty, and that their capture and misfortune was in accordance with His will. And if anyone said, 'Now you will be killed', they shouted, 'Do kills us. When were we afraid of death? Had we been afraid, how could we have fought so many battles with you? It was only through want and hunger that we fell into your hands; otherwise you know already what deeds of bravery we are capable of." William Irvine in his book Later Mughals (1922) has stated that "All observers Indian and European "unite in remarking on the wonderful patience and resolution with which these men underwent their fate. Their attachment and devotion to their leader were wonderful to behold. They had no fear of death; they called the executioner Mukt or the Deliverer, they cried out to him joyfully, "O Mukt ! Kill me first !" Ghulam Husain Khan in his book Siyar-ul-Mutaakhirin has stated that 'But what is singular these people not only behaved firmly during the execution, but they would dispute and wrangle with each other for priority in death, and they made interest with the executioner to obtain the preference.' To evade death all the Sikhs were given the option to court Islam. The letter dated March 10, 1716 and addressed to the President and Governor of Fort William by John Surman and Edward Stephenson, members of the British Embassy to the court of Farrukh Siyar who were present at the venue of execution in Delhi states : 'It has not been found that one apostatised from this new formed religion'. For a whole week the butcheing of Sikhs went on until all of them were beheaded. At night their bodies were removed in carts and hung up on trees outside the city. On June 9, 1716 Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji alongwith his 26 companions was taken out in a procession through the streets of the old city of Delhi to the tomb of Khwaja Qutb ud-Din Bakhtyar Kaki near the Qutab Minar. By this time he along with his companions had been continuously tortured for more than three months. When Baba Banda Singh BahadurJi was brought to this place, because of tortures inflicted on him his hands, arms, feet and legs had been so severly distorted that he could not even stand. He was given a stick to enable him to support his body and in addition a few officials gave support to his shoulders. The historians feel that the details of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji's execution are too horrible to be related. On June 9, 1916 upon his refused to court the Islam religion his four-year old son Ajay Singh was hacked to pieces before his eyes and the pieces of his flesh wereforcibly put into his mouth. After that he was deprived of his right eye, and then of his left. Then his hands and feet were cut off, his flesh was torn with red-hot pincers, and finally his head was chopped off. Until his last breath this brave warrior was reciting Gurbani (sacred hymns), was fully composed and his face was gleaming. To commemerate his bravery, at the site of his execution, Gurdwara Baba Banda Bahadur Ji has been established in Mehrauli, New Delhi. Three years after the painful shaheedi of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji Farrukh-Siyar was killed on the night of 27-28 April, 1719 by his own men who pricked needles into his eyes and then choked him to death. In October-November, 1899 Rabindranath Tagore composed a poem in Bengali titled Bandi Bir (Warrior Bound) based mainly on McGregor's History of the Sikhs and Cunningham's A History of the Sikhs. In the opening stanzas Tagore has described how Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji's message had turned the Sikhs into a selfrespecting and dauntless people and in the rest, he has highlighted the resistance put up by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji against the Mughal oppression, and has heroic death. As reported by Himadri Banerjee this poem was a source of inspiration for the Bengali writers as well as the Bangali militant youth engaged in the struggle for India's independence. The tercentenary of Sirhind Fateh Divas i.e. the day of conquering Sirhind was celebrated all over the world on May 14, 2010. One Fateh Divas March was started on March 30, 2010 at Gurdwara Baba Banda Bahadur Ghat, Nanded in Maharashtra. The pompous procession led by Palki Sahib i.e. the palanquin carrying Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Punj Piaras along with devotees riding elephants, horses and thousands of vehicles passed through the big cities and reached Fatehgarh Sahib on May 14, 2010. The second Fateh Divas March originated at Rajauri in Jammu and Kashmir, the birth place of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji and also reached Fatehgarh Sahib on May 14, 2010. Millions of Sikhs came to have a darshan (holy glimpse) of Fateh Divas March at Chapar Chiri on May 13 and at Fatehgarh Sahib on May 14, 2010. Whenever we think of the martyrdom of Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji and Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji, the two younger sons aged 7 years and 9 years respectively of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, we are reminded of the cruelty of Wazir Khan the then faujdar of Sirhind, who first ordered that these two young children be bricked alive in a wall but when because of some miraculous happening that wall cracked and the masons found it impossible to complete it, then he ordered that these two young children be beheaded. On hearing about the death of her naive grandsons Mata Gujri Ji died of shock. Wazir Khan's forces were also part and parcel of the army which on December 7, 1705 raided the Garhi, the high walled fortified house being used as a temparory citadel by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji where a fierce battle took place between Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his Sikhs one oneside and the imperial army, which included reinforcements from Malerkotla and Sirhind, on the other. It was in this battle which took place in December 7, 1705 at a nearby place west of this Garhi that the two elder sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Ji and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh Ji aged 18 years and 14 years respectively earned martyrdom. Even after the martyrdom of all the four Sahibzadas of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his mother Mata Gujri Ji, Wazir Khan was still full of fury. He alongwith his troops followed Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji and on December 29, 1705 reached Khidrana Dhab which is close to the present day city of Muktsar and invaded him but was defeated. Later on when Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji after staying at Talvandi Sabo now called Damdama Sahib in District Bathinda from January 20, 1706 to October 30, 1706 left for the south he despatched two pathans Jamshed Khan and Wasil Begh to kill him. These two pathans followed Guru Sahib secretly and towards the end of August 1708 when he reached Nanded in Maharashtra, they ever took him. One of them stabbed Guru Sahib on the left side below the heart as he lay resting in his chamber in the evening. Guru Sahib immediately struck him down with his sabre and killed him. The second pathan was killed by his devotees. The wound of Guru Sahib was stitched and seemed to have been healed. But one day as he tried to pull a stiff bow, the wound broke out which ended up being fatal and on 7 October, 1708 after bestowing Guruship on Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji left for his heavenly abode. Thus, Wazir Khan ended up being criminal to the whole family of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. As mentioned earlier to take revenge from Wazir Khan for his misdeeds Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji on May 12, 1710 attacked the imperial forces at Chapar Chiri, Tehsil Kharar, District Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar a place at a distance of about 20 kms from Sirhind and in this battle Wazir Khan was killed. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji the brave Sikh warrior is remembered by the Sikh community on (i) October 27 his birthday (ii) on June 9 his martyrdom day (iii) in December-January during the martyrdom days of the four Sahibzadas and (iv) Sirhind Fateh Diwas on May 14. The name of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji will always be remembered respectfully as a brave Sikh warrior, founder of Sikh Rule, a liberal leader, one who stood against the cruel treatment of the people by the imperial class and embraced death heroically.