Today is the Jayanti of Banda Singh Bahadur who was brutally tortured and executed in 1716 by the Mughals for his revolt and refusal to convert to Islam. A true warrior who was a terror to the Mughals.
The great warrior was born as Lachmann Dev on October 1670 in Jammu’s Rajouri region to a Rajput family. It is believed he took to Sanyas, after seeing a pregant doe, he shot, writhing in pain and dying.
He met a Sadhu named Janaki Das and became his disciple, adopting the name of Madho Das. After travelling all over the North, he finally settled on the banks of the Godavari near Nanded.
Guru Gobind Singh was dissatisfied with the Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah for not punishing the Governor of Sirhind, Nawab Wazir Khan for the murder of his two sons Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh.
It was during the time when he was in Nanded, that the Guru had a chance encounter with Madho Das. And asked him to give up the path of ascetism, and pick up the sword to fight for justice.
At a darbar in Nanded on September 3, 1870,the Guru baptized Madho Das with a Khanda Di Pahal,and gave him the name of Banda Singh Bahadur. He conferred total political and military authority on him and a standard arrow.
Banda Bahadur was given a 5 member advisory council Baj Singh( a descendant of Guru Amar Das), his brother Ram Singh, Binod Singh( a descendant of Guru Angad Dev) and his son Kahan Singh, and Fateh Singh, which would guide him.
He got the name of Banda Bahadur, because when Guru Gobind Singh, asked him,"Who are you" when they first met, he replied
"I am your Banda( slave)"
And he knew who the Guru was.
He was specifically chosen to attack Sirhind, the city where Wazir Khan, the killer of Guru Gobind’s sons resided. In the meantim the Guru himself was stabbed to death on October 1708, with the active connivance of Wazir Khan.
The murder of Guru Gobind Singh, ignited the feelings of vengenance in Banda Bahadur, who now swore total revenge on the Mughals. Travelling across Maharashtra and Rajasthan, which were then seething with revolts against the Mughals, he reached Narnaul.
At Narnaul, Banda Bahadur, saw at first hand, the Satnami sect massacred en masse by the Mughals, and his blood boiled. He received a huge welcome at Hissar from both Hindus and Sikhs, as the representative of the Guru himself.
He also sent letters to the Malwa Sikhs, requesting them to join the battle against the Mughals. And he marched towards Sirhind, conquering Sonepat, Kaithal on the way, looting the Mughal treasury.
His first target was Samana, where resided the executioner of Guru Tegh Bahadur, Jalal-Ud-Din Jallad. On Nov 16, 1709, Samana was attacked, and the city destroyed, by Banda, it’s inhabitants massacred.
The attack on Samana, also marked Banda Bahadur’s “Take no Prisoners” strategy, for him it was total annihilation of the enemy. And that was the main reason why Mughals feared him more than any one, he was utterly ruthless, towards them.
In a way Banda Bahadur also laid down the Sikh practice of take no prisoners, when the enemy was defeated, eliminate them ruthlessly. And soon place after place fell, Ghuram, Thaksa, Thaska, as he swept across Punjab, people began to join him
Every day around 1000 men, willing to fight under him against the Mughals. He was ruthless, when he captured a city, he put his own men in charge, and all the enemy combatants were massacred.
Though Banda Bahadur’s main target was Sirhind, he wanted some time to study the city and prepare for the mission. So he settled down for some time at Mukhlispur, which he renamed as Lohgarh, and it also became the first capital.
Located at the foothills of Shiwaliks, it became Banda Bahadur’s capital, where he established his rule. As a ruler he abolished the Zamindari system, declared the tillers to be the actual owners of the land.
Banda Bahadur’s support base was primarily peasants, small time cultivators, warriors, and he stood for them always. He was equally ruthless against the dacoits in the region, he stamped them out, and ensured law and order was maintained.
The reason for Banda Bahadur’s popularity was the dignity he accorded to people from the lower classes, gave them a better life. Most of his followers were Sikhs seeking to avenge the Guru’s death, as well as the peasants from lower classes.
In the meantime Wazir Khan himself declared Jihad against Banda Bahadur, and got most of the Muslim chieftains, to support him.Wazir Khan had a large, professional army, while Banda’s army was mostly irregulars and some of the older Sikh soldiers.
On May 12, 1710 the armies of Banda Bahadur, clashed with those of Wazir Khan near Sirhind. The cries of Sachcha Padishah, Fateh Darshan, Sat Sri Akal rent the air, as Banda Bahadur led from the center against Wazir Khan’s forces.
The Sikhs suffered heavy casualties from the artillery fire of the Mughals, but they did not allow themselves to be beaten. A pitched battle was fought between Wazir Khan and Banda Bahadur, who in the mean time was joined by Baj Singh, Binod Singh.
And soon Wazir Khan was killed by the Sikh soldiers in battlefield, the Guru’s death was avenged .The Sikh soldiers mounted Wazir Khan’s head on a spear, and the Mughal forces were routed and scattered in disarray.
The Sikhs did not spare the Mughal soldiers, and fell upon them, massacring them en masse, even those fleeing. Soon Banda Bahadur turned his attention to Sirhind, the city was bombarded, many Muslim nobles fled from there.
The city’s treasury was looted and then it was razed to the ground. Many Muslims actually embraced Sikhism to save their lives, such was the fear Banda Bahadur struck.
Banda was now the ruler of the entire province of Sirhind, that extended from the Sutlej to the Yamuna, from the Shivaliks to Karnal. His march was unstoppable now, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Malerkotla all fell, as he marched towards Lahore itself.
Though Banda Bahadur laid siege to Lahore, he could not occupy the city due to it’s strong fortifications, and had to retreat. His unstoppable march across Punjab, his take no prisoners policy, had infuriated the Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah to no end.
The fact is Banda Bahadur literally decimated the Mughal rule in Punjab and North West, and rather ruthlessly too. The Mughal Army struck back against the Sikhs, and many were massacred en masse in retaliation.
Banda Bahadur had to take refuge in the Shiwalik hills, and was soon fighting a losing battle against the Mughal forces. However once again the Sikhs gathered in large numbers, behind him, and struck back at the Mughals.
“Deg O Teg O Fateh o nusrat bedirang
Yaft Az Nanak Guru Gobind Singh”

(The kettle and the sword (Symbols of charity and power), victory and blessing have been obtained from Guru Nanak-Gobind Singh).
-Banda Bahadur's letter to this troops rallying them.
Bahadur Shah was succeded by Farrukshiyar, who had an even more fanatical zeal, and began to hit back at the Sikhs. Though not having the superior armory of the Mughals, the Sikhs more than made it up with their fighting spirit.
They had only the most primitive of weapons, but they fought the Mughals with a never say die attitude. Banda Bahadur became a nightmare for the Mughals now, many of them did not even want to face him in combat.
For 8 months, Banda Bahadur withstood the siege of the Mughals at Gurudas Nangal, an epic last stand if ever there was one. Sadly differences of opinion, meant Baba Binod Singh and 3 others deserted him, when they were needed the most.
Finally Banda Bahadur was forced to surrender, his men could no longer withstand the siege, all resources were exhausted. 300 defending Sikhs were massacred, Banda Bahadur was shackled with chains and put in an iron cage.
In spite of the torture and indignities they were subjected to the Sikhs remained as calm and composed as ever.Banda Bahadur himself was dressed in a mock turban, and a heavy robe, was taken through jeering crowds.
The Mughals promised amnesty to any one who converted, but not one of the captured Sikh soldiers did so. As each Sikh was beheaded, they defiantly cried out the praises to the Guru, and not flinching even for a moment.
700 odd Sikhs were executed, not one of them asked for amnesty, not one of them even considered converting to Islam. Next all the sardars loyal to Banda Bahadur were tortured cruelly, but they held steadfast, never once seeking amnesty.
Banda Bahadur was paraded through the streets of Delhi in front of jeering crowds, along with his son Ajay Singh. All the loyal Sikh Sardars of Banda Bahadur were tortured and then impaled to death right in front of his eyes.
His own son Ajai Singh was cut into pieces before his eyes, the flesh thrown at him. When asked why he was suffering all this, when he could have easily accepted Islam, Banda Bahadur replied without flinching, even in the face of death.
“When the tyrants oppress their subjects to the limit, then God sends men like me on this earth to mete out punishment to them. God is not being unjust to me in any way.”
And then Banda Bahadur was executed in the most gruesome manner, he was first blinded, his arms and legs cut off, his flesh torn off, and finally he was executed and body cut into pieces.
. The gruesome torture and death of Banda Bahadur, did not however crush the Sikhs, it rather strengthened them even more. His heroism, his martyrdom became an inspiration for many a Sikh warrior, who carried on his struggle.
Banda Bahadur had dealt a death blow to the Mughals in Punjab, not even his gruesome torture and death cud change that. While the Sikhs went from strength to strength, reaching it’s glory under Ranjit Singh, the Mughal Empire on the other hand crumbled.
Incidentally Farukhshiyar who ordered the brutal torture and execution of Banda Bahadur, was later overthrown and tortured, executed in the same manner by the Sayyid Brothers. Talk about Karma taking it's own course.
Banda Singh Bahadur a true hero, a true warrior and a just ruler, who began the end of the Mughal rule in Punjab and sacrificed his life for his faith. On his Jayanti today take time to pay a silent tribute to this great, selfless warrior. #JoBoleSoNihaal #SatSriAkaal
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