Veer Vairagi alias Banda Bahadur was a great warrior and liberator
of the Hindus in Panjab, during the cruel and fanatical rule of the
Muslim rulers in the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Banda Bahadur’s life sketch
The story goes that Banda’s original name was Lachhman Dev.
He was born in Kartik 1727 Bikrami Samvat, October-November
1670, four years after the birth of Guru Gobind Singh. He belonged
either to Kashmir or Panjab. He was a Rajput cultivator. By
the time he was just turned twenty, his astonishing mind was set on
its task. He had a reputation of being a great hunter. One day he
killed a doe which immediately delivered itself of two cubs which
expired in his presence. The sight shocked him. He renounced
worldly life and became a Bairagi Sadhu or a wandering hermit
and ultimately settled at Nander on the banks of river Godavari in
Maharashtra. He won great fame as a sorceror under the name of
Madhodas and commanded thousands of followers.
Guru Gobind Singh went to his hermitage. Madhodas was away.
The Guru ordered his disciples to kill a few goats of the Bairagi and
cook meat there and then. The matter was reported to the Bairagi.
The Guru asked him who he was. Madhodas replied, he was Banda
or Guru’s slave. The Guru enquired, if he knew whom he was talking
- He said he was none other than Guru Gobind Singh. At
that time Banda was 38 years old and the Guru was of 42 yeaTS.
The Guru encouraged him to give up his present way of living and
resume the duties of a real Rajput. In a few days the Guru held a
durbar, conferred the title of Banda Bahadur on him and appointed
him his military lieutenant to punish the Governor of Sarhind who
had killed his two youngest sons, and was mainly responsible for
the death of his two elder sons, his mother and thousands of Sikhs
and Hindus. He was given a council of advisers of five Sikhs who
on their arrival in Panjab were to assure the Sikhs that Banda was
Guru’s nominee and deputy to organise them in order to lead an
expedition against Sarhind.
2 Evolution of Sikh Confederacies
Banda came to Panjab and was joined by thousands of Sikhs
and Hindus. He plundered all the Muslim towns and villages on
the way, conquered Sarhind and killed Wazir Khan, its Governor.
He appointed Sikh officers in place of Muslims in the Sarhind province
lying between the rivers Satluj and Jamuna up to Karnal and
Panipat. Then he extended his rule up to river Ravi and occupied
the whole of Indian Panjab and Haryana, while the Rajas of
Himachal Pradesh became his tributaries. He led expeditions into
the Ganga Doab also. He set up his headquarters at Lohgarh, a
small fortalice, situated in the lower Shiwalik hills south of Nahan
and north-east of Sadhaura, in Nahan district. After five years’ rule
he was defeated and killed by the Mughal Emperor, Farrukh Siyar.
Now three questions of importance arise: Where was Banda’s
original home, whether he was known to Guru Gobind Singh before
their meeting at Nander, and if Banda was baptised.
Banda’s original home
There are a couple of theories about the original home of Banda
Bahadur. Most of the historians hold that his birth place was at
Rajauri in Punchh district of Kaskmir. Sixty years after Banda,
James Browne wrote that he was born in the Jullundur Doab.l J.D.
Cunningham says, “he was a native of the south of India.”z The
present writer is of the view that Banda belonged to Sarmur State
now District of Nahan in Himachal Pradesh. This conclusion is
based on the following grounds:
- Guru Gobind Singh’s field of activities had been the region
lying between the rivers Satluj and Jamuna. He stayed at Paonta in
Nahan district of Himachal Pradesh from 1685 to 1688. The Guru
frequently went on hunting expeditions around Paonta as well as in
the hilly areas south of Paonta ar,d Nahan. This part of the country
surrounded by Paonta, Nahan, Morni, Kalka, Pinjor, Chandi
Mandir, Tilokpur below Momi, Tilokpur below Nahan, Kala Am
and Mukhlispur was the famous hunting ground for tigers, leopards,
bears, wild boars and deer, particularly in winter. Ahmad Shah
Abdali hunted tigers and bears here in February 1765. The Governor-
Generals from Calcutta came here to hunt. On March 28, 1838
Lord Auckland killed eight tigers near Kala Am in the dry bed of
river Markauda in a few hours.
Banda was also a mighty hunter. During these hunting excursions
the Guru seems to have met Banda many a time. Without
any previous acquaintance, the Guru would not have undertaken a
long journey of nearly two thousand kilometres and appointed Banda
his Deputy on a fortnight’s experience at Nander to guide the destiny
of his beloved Khalsa.
- Banda’s outward appearance as a Bairagi must have considerably
changed due to his long hair and ash-smeared body. The
Guru must have recognised him, but to make himself quite sure he
enquired who he was. Banda recognised the Guru at once, and
replied that he was Guru’s slave.
- Guru Gobind Singh spoke a language which was a mixture of
Hindi and Panjabi. Such a language must have been spoken by
Banda, otherwise the Sikhs would not have followed him so quickly
and Hindus would not have joined him so speedily. Both the Sikhs
and the Hindus took him as one of themselves for this reason.
This language is still spoken in Ambala district and southern parts
of Nahan district even today.
- Banda’s exploits in this region clearly prove that he was familiar
with every nook and corner of this tract.
- The establishment of his headquarters at Mukhlispur is
another proof of Banda’s knowledge of this area. Mukhlis Khan,
the Governor of Sarhind, often hunted in these jungles. In the heart
of a dense forest he built a rest house for himself on the top of a
hill in 16771 and called it after his own name Mukhlispur. It looked
like a small fort. That is why Khafi Khan calls it QUachi.
- Banda’s disappearance into the hills and emergence at Kiratpur
in one day indicates his familiarity with the submontane tract of
- After Banda’s escape from this fort in December 1710, Raja
Bhup Prakash of Nahan was arrested, put in an iron cage and sent
to Delhi. Banda passed through the states of Nahan, Nalagarh
Bilaspur, Kangra and Chamba. No action was taken against any
oth.:r state. It seems clear that the Raja of Nahan was punished not
that Banda escaped through his territory, but that Banda was his
subject, and it was his duty to apprehend him.
- Banda’s abolition of zamindari system also demonstrates his
knOWledge of this region. The land there belonged to zamindars
under the feudal system. This practice was not confined to Nahan
state but also extended to parts of Ambala district, lying at the foot
of Shiwalik hills. There the landlords were mainly Muslims and
tenants were mostly Hindu Jats and Gujars.
- Banda changed the name of Mukhlispur to that of Lohgarh.
From here he issued his own coins. In addition to the names of
Nanak and Gobind Singh, they bore the words ‘Sachcha Sahib.’
In the language of this tract ‘Sahib’ meant God. When a Hindu met
a Muslim, he greeted him with ‘Sahib Salaam’ (Salute to God),
and the reply given was ‘Sahib ko Salaam.’ The Hindus among
themselves greeted each other with ‘Ram Ram.’ Sachcha Sahib
therefore meant True Lord God. In his letters and orders Banda
used the words ‘Sri Sachcha Sahib,’ not for himself, but for God
and the Guru. The other Gurus after Nanak in their letters wrote
their names as Nanak. Banda eould not write Nanak as he was not
the Guru. He adopted the term of Sachcha Sahib. The word Sahib
was chiefly used there.
- In the battle of Sarhind Sher Muhammad Khan, Nawab of
Malerkotla, had fought hard against Banda. The Nawab was killed
while fighting. In order to punish the Nawab’s family, Banda attacked
Malerkotla. To save the town from pillage Kishan Das Banya,
an old acquaintance of the Bairagi, came to see him. Banda embraced
him. On his recommendation the town was saved on payment of
two lakhs of rupees as fine. l The shopkeepers of the plains visited
Shiwalik hills for the purpose of trade. They exchanged sugar, oil,
salt and cloth for the hilly products such as blankets, ginger, turmeric
and honey. In some of these visits Kishan Das might have met
Was Banda baptised by the Guru?
There is no doubt about it that Banda became a disciple of Guru
Gobind Singh, but he was not baptised according to his new ceremony
of administering pahul. It appears that the Guru did so deliberately
for certain reasons;
- Banda was already known as Guru in Maharashtra and he
commanded a large following. The Guru did not want to enhance
Banda’s prestige as a religious leader of the Sikhs.
- He was over-active and over-energetic (Bara-Tejdhari),2 both
in worldly life as well as in spiritual domain. The Guru was fully
familiar with the Masands’ role. He had abolished that institution,
and was not prepared to create another masand so aggressive and
powerful as Banda.
- By making him a regular Sikh, the Guru feared lest he might
claim Guruship in course of time. Without baptism the Khalsa
would not accept him as the Guru. This actually happened. Ratan
Singh Bhangu and Santokh Singh write that later on Banda declared
himself Guru, and the Khalsa rejected his claim. They insisted on
his getting himself baptised and t:’l.king meat diet. l
Bhai Santokh Singh in Suraj Granth says: “He was not in accord
with the Khalsa. Without the Guru’s approval he started his own
sect. He did not take baptism of the dagger. He did not adopt the
Sikh way of life (keeping five K’s). He did not eat meat and drink
wine, and did not wear black clothes.”2
Gian Singh also says that the Guru did not baptise him.3 Khazan
Singh is of the view that “although Banda became his disciple the
Guru did not deem it advisable to initiate him with Pahul.” lie
further observes: The Guru “selected and deputed Banda Bahadur,
not as successor and leader of the Khalsa, but as an avenging agent
without admitting him into the Khalsa order with the usual initiation
of Amrit baptism.”4
Kartar Singh Kalaswalia says that the Guru presented Banda at
the time of his departure for Panjab with his own special dagger
which he always wore around his neck. At this his Khalsa shouted:
“We will never allow a non-Khalsa to have it. We will sacrifice our
lives after killing him.” Further he says Banda “was neither a baptised
Sikh nor a Sahajdhari.”6
Karam Singh, the well-known Sikh historian, declares that “although
Banda had come within the fold of the Sikhs, he had no time
to take Amrit.”6
- Had Banda been baptised, he would not have changed the
Guru’s salutation of Wah Guruji ka Khalsa, Wah Guruji ki Fatah
to Fatah Darshan.
- In case of his being a regular Sikh, a schism could not have
taken place among his followers into Tatva Khalsa and Bandai
- There are no contemporary or near contemporary sources to
establish the fact that Banda had been baptised. All sources quoted
in support of this assertion are one hundred years or more later.
Banda invested with temporal authority
At a durbar held at Nander about the middle of September 1708,
the Guru conferred the title of Bahadur on Banda and invested him
with full political and military authority as his Deputy to carryon
the national struggle in the Panjab and to punish Wazir Khan of
Sarhind and his supporters. He was supplied with a standard and a
drum as symbols of temporal authority. He was given an advisory
council of five devoted Khalsa: Baj Singh, a descendant of the
family of the third Guru, Amar Das, his brother Ram Singh, Binod
Singh, who descended from Guru Angad, his son Kahan Singh and
Fatah Singh.l Twenty-five Sikh soldiers were given to him as his
bodyguard. A rescript called hukamnamah or a letter of authority
in the handwriting of the Guru instructing the Sikhs to join Banda
Bahadur in his national war against Mughal tyranny was provided.
As an insignia of his temporal authority invested in him, the Guru
gave Banda Bahadur his own sword, green bow and five arrows
from his quiver. Three hundred Sikh cavaliers in battle array accompanied
Banda to a distance of eight kilometres to give him the final
Banda on his journey, 1708-09
The Guru refused to accompany the Emperor beyond Nander.
He had been severely wounded by a Pathan set on the Guru by
Wazir Khan with the connivance of the court nobles. The despatch
of Banda to the Panjab had infuriated Emperor Bahadur
Shah. As a result of his intrigue the Guru passed away on October
7, 1708. Banda had not gone far when he heard the sad news. This
did not discourage him. On the contrary it doubled his zeal and set
the fire of vengeance ablaze in his heart. Besides Banda had seen
with his own eyes how Tara Bai. a young widow five years younger
than he. had set Aurangzeb’s teeth on edge from 1700 to 1707. Sir
Jadunath Sarkar writes. “During this period the supreme guiding
force in Maharashtra was not any minister but the Dc wager queen
Tara Bai Mohite. Her administrative genius and strength of character
saved the nation in that awful crisis that threatened it in consequence
of Rajaram’s death.”1 He now feared the safety of his own
person and his men on account of Emperor’s hostility. He wanted
to reach Panjab before the Emperor was free from the revolt of his
brother Kam Bakhsh at Hyderabad.
Banda seems to have travelled in disguise and by circuitous routes
to avoid detection. Generally he adopted the same route across
Maharashtra and Rajasthan as was followed by Guru Gobind
Singh. The distance between Nander and Hissar in Haryana by that
route was 1,600 kms.2 At the rate of 16 kms or 10 miles a day on
an average, Banda should not have taken more than 100 days during
his journey, but he actually took about a year. It means that he
might have been frequently in hiding. The Emperor should have
instructed his officers to make short work of Banda and his party,
as this much of diplomacy he could not have ignored. That is why
Banda travelled right across Maharashtra and Rajasthan, both of
which were in revolt against the Mughals.
Banda in Haryana, 1709
Narnau/: Banda arrived at Narnaul. There he saw complete destruction
of Satnamis with his own eyes. His blood boiled on learning
that the entire sect of Satnamis, men, women and children, one
and all, had been wiped out of existence. It was here that Banda
made up his mind to retaliate upon Muslims. Here he suppressed
some dacoits and robbers.1
Bhiwani: At Bhiwani Banda looted the government treasury and
distributed it among his followers. This liberality attracted a large
number of young men to join him.’
Hissar: In Hissar district called the Bagar desh where Banda
was in October 1709, he was well received by the Hindus and Sikhs
as a leader of the nationalist movement and deputy of Guru
Gobind Singh. Liberal offerings were made to him in the cause of
the country and dharam (religion and virtue) which he distributed
among his followers and the poor and the needy. In this region he
took to suppressing dacoits and robbers, seized thei.r booty and
gave it to the poor people. Young men of narrow means and daredevils
began to flock under his banners, and the number of his
retinue was swelling.3
Tohana: Here Banda issued letters to Malwa Sikhs to join him
in his crusade against Wazir Khan of Sarhind.
Never perhaps in the history of Panjab did the circumstances of
the time offer so fair a field to the ambition of a leader, conscious
of great talents, and calleo to the command of a warlike people,
only too eager to support him in any enterprise he might undertake.
The Emperor was away in the Deccan, and many of his notable
chiefs and commanders had been killed in the recently fought civil
war. The Governors of Delhi, Sarhind, Lahore and Jammu acted
independently and had no cooperation among themselves. Banda
directed his attention to the east towards Delhi. There were two
motives behind this move. He wanted to leave Mata Sahib Devi in
Delhi and plunder the Government officials and rich Muslims of
the fertile areas of Haryana. From Kharkhauda about 50 kms
north-west of Delhi, Mata Sahib Devi was sent to Delhi under proper
escort, to join Mata Sundari, who was acting as head of
the Khalsa. She might have resented Banda’s ignoring her for not
having visited her at the capital before starting on his crusade.
Sonepat: At Sonepat, 50 kms north of Delhi, early in November
1709 Banda commanded about 500 followers. He attacked the
IBanda’s arrival at Namaul and his suppression oflawless people is mentioned
by Giani Gian Singh, Shri Guru Panth Prakash, 4th edition, 345-46.
government treasury, plundered it and distributed it among his
retinue. This was his second success against the government and it
considerably raised his prestige. By slow marches he advanced towards
Kaitha/: Near Kaithal, about 100 kms farther north, Banda seized
a government treasury which was on its way from the northern districts
to Delhi. He kept nothing out of it for himself and gave it
away to his rank and file.
Samana: Samana, 50 kms farther north was the native place of
Jalal-ud-din Jallad, the professional executioner, who had beheaded
Guru Tegh Bahadur, while his son had beheaded the two younger
sons of Guru Gobind Singh. Ali Husain who by false promises had
lured Guru Gobind Singh to evacuate Anandpur also belonged to
Samana. It was an accursed place in the eyes of the Sikhs. The entire
peasantry of the neighbourhood was now up in arms, and
Banda’s following had risen to several thousands. Banda fell upon
the town on November 26, 1709. The inhabitants were massacred
in cold blood and the town was thoroughly squeezed.l Samana
was the district town and had nine parganahs attached to it. It was
placed under charge of Fatah Singh. Samana was the first territorial
conquest and the first administrative unit of Banda. A large
quantity of gold, arms and ammunition fell into his hands, while
everybody fighJng under him became rich and prosperous.2 Fatah
Singh was given a body of troopers to maintain peace and order.
Other Muslim Towns: Kunjpura, Ghuram and Thaska, inhabited
by Muslim Ranghars, notorious for rape and rapine, were destroyed
next.3 Damla was the village of those Pathans who had deserted
Guru Gobind Singh in the battle of Bhangani. It was ravaged.~
Shahabad Markanda, 25 kms south of Ambala, a Muslim town, fell
Banda’s victim. Mustafabad, 40 kms south-west of Ambala, was
laid waste. The Nawab of Kapuri who was lewd and lustful was
killed and his fort was razed to the ground.
Sadhaura: Usman Khan, the chief of Sadhaura, 25 kms distant,
had persecuted Sayyid Budhu Shah for helping Guru Gobind Singh
in the battle of Bhangani. The Muslim population maltreated the
local Hindus. On the approach of Banda the leading Muslims
gathered in a big and strongly built mansion. They were all massacred.
This building came to be called Qatal Garhi.1 Banda attacked
the town and destroyed it.
The contemporary historian Khafi Khan wrote: “In two or three
months’ time, four to five thousand pony-riders, and seven to eight
thousand warlike footmen joined him. Day by day their number
increased, and abundant money and material by pillage fell into
their hands. Soon eighteen to nineteen thousand men in arms under
him raised aloft the standard of plunder and persecution.”2 Further
on he says: “Numerous villages were laid waste, and he appointed
his own police officers (thanedars) and coIlectors of revenue (tahsildar-
Lohgarh: The ultimate aim of Banda was to punish Wazir Khan
and conquer Sarhind. It required time to consolidate his material
and territorial gains. He also wanted to study the military resources
of Sarhind. He was anxious to see what steps the Government
would take against him. He therefore established his headquarters,
i1J. the beginning of February 1710, at Mukhlispur situated in lower
Shiwalik hills south of Nahan, about 20 kms from Sadhaura. Its
fort stood on a hill top. Two kuhls or water channels flowed at its
base and supplied water to it. This fort was repaired and put in a
state of defence. AIl the money, gold and costly material acquired
in these expeditions were deposited here. He struck coins and
issued orders under his own seal. The name of Mukhlispur was
changed to Lohgarh, and it became the capital of the first Sikh
State. “Although he declared himself as the slave of the Guru, yet
the Khalsa looked upon him as the Guru and became his followers.”4
Banda ruled over the region bounded on the north by the Shiwalik
hills, on the west by river Tangri, on the east by river Jamuna, and
in the south by a line passing through Samana, Thanesar, Kaithal
and Kamal. He abolished the Zamindari system of land tenure
prevailing under the Mughals an<\ declared the actual cultivators as
the owners of land. Thus he established the peasant proprietorship,
and won the approbation and support of the overwhelming majority
of the population. Khafi Khan says that Banda “issued orders to
imperial officers and agents and big jagirdars to submit and give
up their business.”l So Guru Gobind Singh’s dream of political
sovereignty was realized within a year of his death.
Banda’s name struck terror into the hearts of lawless people,
and thefts and brigandage became a thing of the past. “In all the
parganahs occupied by the Sikhs,” writes Irvine, “the reversal of
the previous customs was striking and complete. A low scavenger
or leather dresser, the lowest of the low in Indian estimation, had
only to leave home and join the Guru, when in a short time he
would return to his birthplace as its. ruler with his order of appointment
in his hand. As soon as he set foot within the boundaries,
the well-born and wealthy went out to greet him and escort him
home. Arrived there, they stood before him with joined palms
awaiting his orders… Not a soul dared to disobey an order, and
men who had often risked themselves in battlefields, became so
cowed down that they were afraid even to remonstrate. Hindus who
had not joined the sect were not exempt from these.”2
Banda devoted three months in organizing his civil and military
administration. Bahadur Shah was still away from Delhi. The Delhi
Government had made no attempt to recover their lost territory
from him. Wazir Khan of Sarhind was making his own preparations
independently to meet the danger from Banda.
Banda’s troops consisted of two classes of people. The old Sikhs
who had fought under Guru Gobind Singh joined him purely to
punish Wazir Khan. They also wished to see the fulfilment of the
Guru’s prophecy for Sikh sovereignty in Panjab. They numbered
about five thousands. Another class of Sikhs of about the same
number comprised young men who wanted to punish and plunder
the enemies of their faith. The third group of Hindu Jats, Gujars
and Rajputs, about ten thousands in number were intent on plunder
alone. Most of them were untrained, raw levies, not fully armed.
Banda possessed no elephants, no good horses and no guns. His
followers had matchlocks, swords, spears, bows and arrows. According
to Khafi Khan the number of Sikhs had risen to thirty or forty
Wazir Khan’s preparations
Wazir Khan had proclaimed a jihad or a holy war against Banda.
He was joined by the Nawab of Malerkotla, all other Muslim chiefs
and jagirdars as well as by Ranghars in large numbers. His men
were fully equipped with fine, up-to-date arms. Majority of his
soldiers were trained men. Wazir Khan’s own troops were “five or
six thousand horse and seven or eight thousand musketeers (barqandaz)
and archers, and with these, some artillery and elephants.” In
addition there were about eight thousand ghazis. The total number
of his troops was about twenty thousands.
Banda advanced from Lohgarh and halted at Banur, near Ambala,
14 kms from Rajpura. The Muslims of that town used to seize cows
and oxen of Hindus and slaughter them in their presence. Banda
sacked it, and then went ahead towards Sarhind.
On hearing the news of Banda’s advance, the Sikhs of the
Jullundur and Bari Doabs gathered at Kiratpur to join his forces.
Their passage was barred near Rupar by Sher Muhammad Khan
of Malerkotla. He was defeated. They met Banda between Banur
and Kharar on the road leading from Ambala to Rupar.1
The battle of Sarhind, May 12, 1710
The battle was fought at Chhappar Chiri,2 20 kms from Sarhind
on May 12, 1710. On the Mughal side Sher Muhammad Khan,
Nawab of Malerkotla, was the leader of the right wing. Wazir
Khan was in command of the centre. Suchanand, chief secretary
of,the Nawab, was put on the left. On the Sikh side, Baj Singh
headed the right flank and Binod Singh the left flank, while Banda
c,ommanded the centre facing Wazir Khan. Shouts of Sachcha
Radishah, Fatah Darshan, Akal, Akal and Ya Ali, Ya Ali, rent
. tbe sky.3 Suchanand could not withstand the ferocity of Baj Singh.
He was soon vanquished and fled away. The artillery fire of the
Mughals told heavily on the plunderers in Banda’s camp. They
were equally divided between the forces of Banda and Binod, and
they took to flight. Sher Muhammad was about to overpower
:ainod Singh’s wing when he was suridenly struck by a bullet and
was instantly killed. His men immediately dispersed. Wazir Khan
was rushing upon Banda who stuck fast to his ground and discharged
arrows relentlessly. There a bloody battle was going on.
Baj Singh and Binod Singh now joined Banda. Banda and the Sikh
leaders now converged around Wazir Khan, who was killed.
Wazir Khan’s death is variously described. Khafi Khan says that
he was struck by a musket balJ.l Mir Muhammad Ahsan Ijad says
that Baj Singh rushed upon Wazir Khan. The Governor threw his
spear at him. Baj Singh caught hold of it. He flung the same spear
upon Wazir Khan. It struck the forehead of his horse. Wazir Khan
discharged an arrow which hit Baj Singh’s arm. He then rushed
upon him with his sword. At this juncture Fatah Singh came to the
rescue of Baj Singh. His sword cut the Khan from shoulder to the
Akhbarat-e-Durbar-e-Mualla dated May 13, 1710 stated that the
battle began in the morning and lasted until afternoon. Wazir Khan
was wounded by arrows and bullets and fell dead. His son and sonin-
law also perished.1
Latif writes that he was killed by an arrow which pierced hill
breast.4 Kanhiyalal says he was struck by a bullet in breast.5 Macauliffe
holds that his head was cut off by Banda himself in a scuffle.’
Wazil’ Khan’s head was stuck up on a spear and lifted high up
by a Sikh who took his seat in the deceased’s howdah. The Sikhs
with one voice and in a wild excitement raised the sky-rending
shouts of Sat Sri Akal. The Muslim troops on beholding the Nawab’s
head took alarm, and trembling fled helter skelter in dismay and
despair. The Sikhs fell upon them and there was a terrible carnage.
Blood flowed freely not only in the battlefield but on a wide tract
up to the city of Sarhind, 20 kms distant. Wazir Khan’s body was
dragged by oxen and was then burnt.7 Khafi Khan writes that in
the course of flight “not a man of the army of Islam escaped with
more than his life and the clothes he stood in. Horsemen and foot
men fell under the swords of the infidels who pursued them as far
The city ofSarhind
The Sikhs reached Sarhind by nightfall. The gates of the city were
closed. The guns mounted on the walls of the fort commenced
bombardment. The Sikhs laid siege to the place. They took rest in
the night and gained strength for another trial the following day.
Wazir Khan’s family and the Muslim nobles fled to Delhi at night.
Severe fighting took place on May 13, 1710. The fort guns caused
“great havoc among Sikhs, and about 500 of them lost their lives.
The Sikhs in knots were hammering at the gates, and the Mughal
gunners obviously were playing a losing game. By afternoon they
succeeded in breaking open a couple of gates, and Banda’s troops
entered the town. Inside the town destruction of life and property
knew no bounds. Whole families were wiped out of existence.
Every follower of Banda seized as much in calih and kind as much
he could carry home The Government treasury and moveable property
worth two crores fell into the hands of Banda and it was
removed to Lohgarh. Several Muslims of note saved their lives by
embracing Sikhism. Dindar Khan son of JaJal Khan Rohilla became
Dindar Singh. The official newswriter of Sarhind Mir Nasirud-
din changed his name to Mir Nasir Singh.2
The province of Sarhind occupied
The entire province of Sarhind consisting of twenty-eight parganahs
and extending from the Satluj to the Jamuna and from the
Shiwalik hills to Kunjpura, Kamal and Kaithal, yielding 52 lakhs
annually (Bawani Sarhind) came into Banda’s possession. Baj Singh
was appointed Governor of Sarhind. Ali Singhwas made his deputy.
Their chief responsibility was to be on guard against the Mughal
troops from Lahore and Jammu. Fatah Singh retained charge of
Samana..Ram Singh, brother of Baj Singh, became chief of Thanesar.
Binod Singh, in addition to his post of the revenue minister,
was entrusted with the administration of Kamal and Panipat. His
main duty was to guard the road from Delhi. Banda retired to his
capital at Lohgarh. His era began from May 12, 1710, the date of
his victory in the battle of Sarhind. The zamindari system was
abolished in the whole province at one stroke. l
Banda advances towards Lahore, June 17/0
Having set up the administrative machinery, Banda advanced
from Sarhind to Malerkotia to punish the family of Sher Muhammad
Khan. The town was saved for a ransom of two lakhs on the recommendation
of Kishan Das Banya, an old acquaintance of Banda.
From there he marched to Morinda. He chastized the Brahmins and
Ranghars who had made over Guru Gobind Singh’s mother and
his two youngest sons to Wazir Khan. Then he visited Kiratpur
and Anandpur to pay homage at the holy shrines. He took Hoshiarpur
and Jullundur and carried fire and sword everywhere. Banda
crossed the Beas and fell upon Batala. Shaikh-ul-Ahad, a leading
Muslim chief and theologian, was killed. Several other places including
Kalanaur were captured. 2 He went on a pilgrimage to Derah
Baba Nanak. At Amritsar Banda made large offerings. He invited
young men to embrace Sikhism promising remission of land revenue
and other rewards. Thereupon the people of Majha joined the
Banda marched to Lahore. Sayyid Islam Khan, the Governor,
mounted guns on the walls of the city. He was joined by all the
Muslims of the neighbourhood. A fierce action took place at a
distance from the city. Thousands were killed on both sides. The
Muslims were defeated. They assembled the next day, “but were
again defeated with great slaughter.”4 Lahore must have fallen, but
Banda was in a hurry to look after his Government.
Thus the city remained safe owing to its strong fortifications. But
the entire suburbs for miles around were completely devastated. In
this campaign Banda was joined by thousands of low-caste Hindus.5
Banda in the Upper Ganga Doab, July 1710
Banda returned to Sarhind, toured over the province to see that
the administration was going on well. Then he returned to Lohgrah.
In the course of his excursions tales of bigotry of the Muslims of
the Upper Ganga Doab were brought to his notice. He lost no time,
and crossed the river Jamuna at Rajghat near Buria and entered the
district of Saharanpur. He punished and plundered the people of
Saharanpur, Behat, Nanautah and Jalalabad. The people submitted
after a tough resistance. Thus Banda’s rule extended from the river
Ravi to the Ganga, and from the neighbourhood of Lahore to the
vicinity of Panipat.1
The Haidari Flag, September-October 17/0
Immediately on his return, the Musiims of Lahore district and
its vicinity declared a holy war against the Sikhs. Thousands of
Muslims gathered under a huge standard with a green flag, called
Haidari Jhanda, to crush the Sikh revolt. The Sikhs assembled under
their local leaders in self-defence. Three main battles were fought
at Qaila Bhagwant Rae, not far from Lahore, Kotla Begam near
Chamyari and Bhilowal. The Muslims were defeated and dispersed.2
The battle of Rahon, October-November 17/0
The Sikhs fell back. They captured Rahon situated on a high
mound near the Satluj in the Jullundur Doab. Shams Khan, faujdar
of the Jullundur Doab, had his headquarters at Sultanpur
Lodi. At the head of 5,000 men he marched against the Sikhs.
There were no provisions in the fort of Rahon. They left the fort
and came out to oppose Shams Khan. A hard battle was fought in
Yaqub Khan’s garden. Shams Khan was joined by his uncle
Bayazid Khan, Governor of Jammu. Umar Khan, an Afghan chief
of Kasur, also united with them. A tough fight followed. The Sikhs
held together for a few days. Finding the situation untenable they
entered Rahon in the night. The place was immediately besieged.
They stood their ground for some time, eating whatever could be
had from the deserted houses. The fort fell in November and the
Sikhs were driven away.3 Shams Khan then advanced upon Sarhind.
Baj Singh and Ali Singh were defeated. They fled away to Lohgarh.
Shams Khan occupied Sarhind and killed a number of Sikhs.
Bahadur Shah marches against Banda
Emperor Bahadur Shah had defeated and killed his only surviving
brother Kam Bakhsh in January 1709. He remained in the Deccan
for about a year to establish his own administration. Meanwhile
several Rajput princes had revolted in Rajasthan. Bahadur Shah
came there in May 1710. At Ajmer he got the news of Sikh
rebellion in Panjab. He hurriedly settled terms with the Rajputs
and left for Panjab towards the close of June 1710.
Several Hindu chiefs such as Chatarsal Bundela1 and Udet Singh
Bundela followed in his train. The Governors of Allahabad,
Lucknow, Moradabad, Delhi and Sayyid Abdullah of Barah Sadat
in Muzaffarnagar district were ordered to join him.2
In July 1710 the Emperor appointed Zain-ud-din Ahmad Khan
Governor of Sarhind. In August 1710 Firoz Khan Mewati was
placed in command of the advance-guard. Muhammad Amin
Khan,3 Governor of Moradabad, with his son Qamar-ud-din Khan
(both of whom became prime ministers of Delhi later on) joined
the Emperor in Haryana. Another force under Sayyid Wajih-uddin
Khan of Barah Sadat was sent to reinforce Firoz Khan
Mewati. By a proclamation ingress into and egress from Delhi was
strictly forbidden. Kokaltash Khan was given charge of Sonepat.
Early in September 1710 all the Hindus in the camp were clean
shaved to avoid any resemblance with the Sikhs. Muslim chiefs
and jagirdars joined the imperial forces on their way. Churaman
Jat of Bharatpur reported himself on duty in the royal camp near
The Emperor was so much worried that he did not enter his
capital and marched straight to Sonepat in the last week of October.
Here he learnt the news of a couple of engagements with the Sikhs.
Firoz Khan Mewati had fought an action with Binod Singh at
Amin, 24 kms north of Kamal, and he presented 300 Sikh heads
to the Emperor at Sonepat. He was given one lakh of rupees and
appointed Governor of Sarhind in supersession of his previous
orders for the appointment of Zain-ud-din Khan.
Mewati fought two more battles against Binod Singh and Ram
Singh at Traori and Thanesar, defeated them and established bis
own military posts there. Hundreds of Sikh heads with their long
flowing hair were hung up on trees all along the road. He then
advanced to Shahabad, and captured it.
In November 1710 the Emperor passed through Panipat, Kamal,
Thanesar and Shahabad. He encamped at Barara. In one month
he covered a distance of 150 kms. In the beginning of December
1710 he reached Sadhaura which became the base of his operations.
There the Emperor received 300 Sikh heads sent by Shams Khan
from Sarhind. Firoz Khan Mewati was ordered to restore Emperor’s
authority in the rural areas.
Clashes with Imperial forces
Bahadur Shah planned to advance upon Banda’s stronghold at
Lohgarh. The Imperial forces were terror-stricken (tars-o-hariis).l
“According to the popular voice,” writes Irvine, “he was a most
powerful magician, greater even than he who made a calf to talk;
he could turn a bullet from its course and could work such spells
that spear and sword had little or no effect upon his followers.
Owing to those idle rumours the Emperor and the nobles and the
soldiers were much disturbed in mind and were disheartened. The
Sikhs, on the other hand, were encouraged by the belief instilled
into them by Banda that all who lost their lives in this war would
be recreated at once in a higher rank.”z
A strong Mughal force under Rustamdil Khan advanced from
their base at Sadhaura towards Lohgarh to examine the position
of Banda’s defences. At a distance of 5 kms they were suddenly
attacked by Banda’s troops. Khafi Khan writes: “It is impossible
for me to describe the fight which followed. The Sikhs in their
faqir dress struck terror into the royal troops. The number of the
dead and dying of the Imperialists was so large that, for a time, it
seemed they were losing ground. A nephew of Firoz Khan Mewati
was killed and his son wounded.”· In the battle Banda lost 1,500
Sikhs and two Sardars.’ Banda cut off convoys and other detachents,
and kilJed two or three faujdars. It rained for four or five
days and weather became very cold. Thousands of soldiers fell ill
and many horses died. Their stench was unbearable. The soldiers
attributed this calamity to the sorcery of Banda.
Another big contingent under command of Emperor’s son Prince
Rafi-us-Shan, was ordered to reinforce Rustamdil Khan. Kamwar
Khan in his Tazkirat-ul-Salatin writes: “This humble person was
then present with the troops of Prince Rafi-us-Shan, and saw with
his own eyes that everyone of the cursed Sikhs came out of the
entrenchments, challenged the Imper~al troops, and after great
struggle and trial, fell under the swords of the Ghazis.”t Rustamdil
Khan was raised to the mansab of 4,000 Zat and 3,000 Sawar with
the title of Ghazi Khan Rustam-e-Jang.
The siege of Lohgarh
Rustamdil Khan made a farther advance by 4 kms, and reached
the stream Som. From there the fort of Lohgarh was visible. It
was perched on the top of a hill. Between the stream Som and
Lohgarh lay a dense forest. It produced frightful sounds at night.
The imperial camp arrived there on December 9, 1710. The prime
minister Munim Khan and his son Mahabat Khan were assigned
the duty to guard the royal camp.
The foIlowing day on December 10, 1710, the Imperial army,
60,000 strong, pushed forward in battle array so as to surround
the fort of Lohgarh on all sides. Wazir Munim Khan, his son
Mahabat Khan and Chatarsal Bundela were in charge of the right
wing. Ddet Singh Bundela and Churaman Jat commanded the left
wing. Rustamdil Khan was in the centre. When they reached within
range of the Sikh guns, they were heavily shelled. The Mughal
troops entered the trenches at the foot of the hill. The Sikhs fought
hard, but they were repulsed. The survivors retreated up the hill.
Large numbers of Muslims were also killed.2
The fort of Lohgarh. was small. There was no space for storing
large quantities of grain and fodder. Their supplies had run short.
“The infidels bought what they could from the grain-dealers with
the royal army, and pulled it up with ropes,”3 In this exigency
Banda decided to escape. A Sikh Gulab Singh by name, a Khatri
and formerly a tobacco-seller, had a great resemblance with Banda
Bahadur. He put on Banda’s clothes and took up position in his
place. At 3 o’clock in the morning on December 11, 1710, a hollow
trunk of a big tamarind tree lying in the lower parts of the hill was
filled with gunpowder. The guns in the fort were also kept ready
to fire simultaneously. Just when the gunpowder in the tree trunk
was blown off and the guns in the fort fired, Banda and his men
escaped in the gre~ confusion prevailing in the Mughal camp.
They safely disappeared into the Sarmur hills. 1
From Sarmur right across lower parts of the Shiwalik hills, Banda
passed through Hindur (Nalagarh), Kahlur (Bilaspur), KutJehr,
Jaswan, Siba and Nurpur, to Chamba.
With the sunrise on December 11, 1710, the imperialists delivered
a vehement assault on the fort. Gulab Singh and his companions
kept on firing from the fort. The Mughal troopers continued
climbing up the hill. Gulab Singh and thirty of his companions
were captured. A number of women and children of the neighbouring
village had taken up shelter in the Sikh fort. They were
taken prisoners. The booty in the fort comprised many horses and
camels, five elephants, three big guns, seventeen light guns, a few
muskets and swords, a canopy with silver poles, gold and silver
coins worth eight lakhs of rupees, and from underground gold coins
to the value of twenty lakhs of rupees.s
There were great rejoicings in the Imperial camp. On December
12, 1710 a great durbar was held, and various honours were conferred
on all the commanders. In the evening it was discovered
that the real Banda had escaped and that it was his duplicate who
had been captured. According to Khafi Khan “the hawk had flown
and an owl had been caught.us All were thoroughly disappointed.
The Mughal camp wore a mourning appearance. The Emperor
summoned Prime Minister Munim Khan and administered to him
a sharp rebuke. The Wazir took the insult to heart, fell ill, and
died two and a half months afterwards, when the Emperor was
halting at BadhauJi not far from Sadhaura on his way to Lahore.’
On December 13, a contingent of Mughal troops was despatched
to seize the Barfis Raja of Nahan, Bhup Prakash, whose younger
brother had been offered the gadd; by Aurangzeb if he would
embrace Islam. The Raja was seized. He and Gulab Singh, Banda’s
substitute, were both put in an iron cage, sent to Delhi and imprisoned
in the Red Fort.l Gulab Singh’s thirty companions were
beheaded. Muhammad Khan came from Sarhind and presented to
the Emperor six cartloads of Sikh heads.2
It was the duty of the Raja of Nahan to supply ice in summer
to the Imperial capital. In winter ice was stored in pits at the foot
of hills. In hot weather it was carried wrapped in thick blankets by
porters to Dhamras on the river Yamuna. There it was packed in
boxes and floated down the river in rafts to Daryapur near Khizarabad
in Ambala district. At this place it was loaded in boats and
reached Delhi in three days.
Banda at Kiratpur, December 12,1710
One day after his escape from Lohgarh Banda arrived at Kiratpur.
On December 12, 1710 he addressed a number of letters to
various centres of Sikhs inviting them to gather at Anandpur immediately.
One of such letters was addressed to the Sangat at
Jaunpur in V.P. It is reproduced below:
One God! Victory to the Sect!3
This is the order of Sri Sachcha Sahib to the entire Khalsa of
Jaunpur. The Guru will protect you. Call upon the Guru’s name.
Your lives will be fruitful. You are the Khalsa of great Immortal
God. On seeing this letter repair to the presence, wearing five arms.
Observe the rules of conduct laid down for the Khalsa. Do not use
bhang, tobacco, poppy, wine, or any other intoxicant…
Commit no theft or adultery. We have brought about the golden
age (Satyuga). Love one another. This is my wish. He who lives
according to the rules of the Khalsa shall be saved by the Guru.
Poh 12 Samvat 1.”4
From Kiratpur Banda went to Anandpur, and passing through
the hills reached Chamba. Raja Vdai Singh offered Banda a princess
“a supremely beautiful girl. She had large eyes, her limbs were
graceful and delicate, and she is described by the enthusiastic
chronicler as the very image of the goddess of love.”l
Bahadur Shah died, February 28,1712
The Emperor marched in pursuit of Banda. Passing through
Sadhaura, Sarwarpur, Rasulpur and Badhauli, where his prime
minister Munim Khan passed away, he reached Rupar on April 30,
- He crossed the Satluj on May 17, 1711, and reached Hoshiarpur
on June 9, 171 I. The river Beas was crossed on June 23. He
arrived at Kahnuwan on July 17 where he enjoyed hunting water
fowls. He reached Lahore on August II, 1711. Some time afterwards
the Emperor developed signs of insanity and died on February
The battle of Raipur-Bahrampur, November 1711
Banda came out of the hills in September 1711. He seized Pathankot
and Gurdaspur. At the latter place he built a fort and collected
stores ofmunition, grain and fodder. In November Qutb-ud-din Khan
Kheshgi, faujdar of Jammu, advanced to oppose him. Banda was
then subjugating the country in the neighbourhood of Batala and
Kalanaur. Qutb-ud-din lay encamped 40 kms to the north. His
nephew Shams Khan proceeded from Sultanpur to join his uncle.
Both the chiefs attacked Banda near Raipur-Bahrampur. In a severe
scuffle the Sikhs took to their heels. Shams Khan issued out in
their pursuit. Qutb-ud-din tried his best to prevent him, but he did
not care. The Sikhs suddenly came to a halt, and engaged the
Afghans in a fiercely contested battle. Shams Khan was shot dead,
while Qutb-ud-din was seriously wounded. He fell unconscious and
died after three days.2
Kalanaur and Batala
Banda marched upon Batala. Shaikh Muhammad Daim, the faujdar
of Batala opposed the Sikhs. He was defeated and he fled away
to Lahore. Kalanaur and Santokhgarh fell immediately afterwards.3
Two Mugha1 generals, Muhammad Amin Khan and Rustamdil Khan
issued in pursuit of Banda. He at once crossed river Ravi. The
Mughal forces pursued Banda. In the battle of Pasrur the Mughals
were victorious, and Banda fled away towards Jammu.
Muhammad Amin Khan and Rustamdil Khan maintained pursuit
of Banda. In other engagements fought at Parol 24 kms north-west
of Pathankot and at Kathua II kms east of Parol he was again
repulsed. Rustamdil Khan committed terrible atrocities on the
people of Parol-Kathua. He captured young men and women and
brought them to Lahore for sale in the slave market.1
Muhammad Amin Khan advanced to Jammu, fought a battle
with Banda and sent 500 Sikh heads to Lahore.2 Banda penetrated
into the hills and rested on the bank of river Chenab, 75 kms from
Jammu. The place came to be calIed Derah Baba Banda.
Banda recovers Sarhind and Lohgarh, March 1712
On the death of Bahadur Shah a civil war occurred among his
sons at Lahore on March 14-17, 1712. The Mughal governors joined
one side or the other. Eventually the eldest son Jahandar Shah
came out successful.
Banda took advantage of the situation. He appeared into the
plains early in March 1712. Islam Khan, Governor of Lahore, marched
to check Banda’s advance. In a pitched battle Islam Khan
was repulsed and he returned to the capital to participate in the
contest for the throne among princes.
Banda advanced upon Sarhind. Bayazid Khan, the Governor,
opposed him, but he was not successful. After the battle the Governor
retired into his tent. A Sikh entered his tent at night and
severed his head. Sarhind again fell into Banda’s hands. Having
appointed Sikh officers Banda took up his position at Lohgarh.3
Jahandar Shah ordered Amin Khan to seize Banda. He besieged
Lohgarh, but failed to capture the Sikh leader. When the Emperor
was going to Agra to suppress the revolt of Farrukh Siyar, son of
his younger brother Azim-us-Shan, he called Amin Khan to join
him. Jahandar Shah was defeated and killed on February 11, 1713.
Farrukh Siyar became the Emperor.
The new Emperor immediately turned his attention to suppress
the Sikh revolt. On February 22, 1713 Farrukh Siyar transferred
Abdus Samad Khan Diler Jang from Kashmir to Panjab, while his
youthful son Zakariya Khan was appointed faujdar of Jammu.
Zabardast Khan was given Kashmir. Zain-ud-din Ahmad Khan
was made in charge of Sarhind. Strict orders were issued to all of
them to put an end to the Sikh revolt and capture Banda.1 Abdus
Samad Khan and Zain-ud-din Ahmad Khan encamped at Sadhaura
in April 1713 and commenced fighting with the Sikhs. The Sikhs
fought so ferociously that the Mughal army was almost overpowered.
According to Khafi Khan “They over and over again showed the
greatest daring.” He again repeats that the Sikhs “showed the greatest
boldness and daring, and made nocturnal attacks upon the Imperial
forces.” He further emphasizes that “the enemy exhibited
great courage and daring.”2 Banda held his ground for six months.
When he ran short of supplies of grain and fodder he escaped into
the hills in the beginning of October 1713. This news was recorded
at Delhi on October 9, 1713.3
Banda retired to his Derah on the bank of river Chenab. Zakariya
Khan, the Governor of Jammu, led an expedition against him. A
number of Sikhs lost their lives. Their heads were cut off and sent
to Delhi. They were produced before Farrukh Siyar on December
13, 1713. Zakariya Khan was granted a robe of honour with the
rank of 3,000 Zat and 1,000 Sawars.4
Banda came out in August 1714 near Rupar with 7,000 Sikhs.
Zain-ud-din Ahmad Khan, Faujdar of Sarhind, fought an action
with him on August 26, 1714. He sent 200 Sikh heads to Delhi.6
Banda vanished into the hills.
Schism in Banda’s ranks, October 1714
A determined effort was now made by Farrukh Siyar to suppress
the Sikh rebellion through diplomacy as well as military action. He
was disappointed that the Mughal Empire with all the resources at
its command had failed in capturing the Sikh leader. He formed a
plan to use Mata Sundari widow of Guru Gobind Singh who was
living in Delhi. She was asked to persuade Banda to stop his lawl
less activities, accept jagirs for himself and other Sikh leaders, and
to get his Sikh soldiers recruited in the imperial army. On receiving
Mata Sundari’s communication Banda replied that he had no faith
in Government’s promises. The Emperor imprisoned Mata Sundari
and Mata Sahib Devi. The Emperor knew that the Sikhs would
ma~ submission in order to save the honour of Guru’s widows.
Mata Sundari again wrote to Banda to submit. Banda said that the
ladies must endure all the hardship because his submission implied
annihilation of the Khalsa, and failure of his mission entrusted to
him by the Guru. The Emperor tightened the restrictions imposed
upon the ladies. Mata Sundari ordered Banda immediately to submit
or face excommunication.
Banda replied that “he was merely a Bairagi Faqir and had
neither friend nor foe”l and that “he was merely carrying out the
orders of Guru Gobind Singh in regard to the campaign of vengeance
for the destruction of the tyrant, and the protection of the
Mata Sundari charged Banda with disobedience and non-observance
of Guru Gobind Singh’s instructions. She issued orders ·of
excommunication of Banda to all the Sikh leaders serving under
Banda on the ground that he had married, that he had substituted
Fatah Darsl:an for Wah Guru Ji ka Khalsa, Wah Guru Ji ki Fatah,
and that he wanted to rule over the Singhs as their Guru.
On the receipt of letters of excommunication many Sikh chiefs
immediately decided to separate themselves from Banda. The initiative
was taken by Miri Singh, a young man in early twenties. His
father Kahan Singh and grandfather Binod Singh, Banda’s companions
from Nander as his principal advisers appointed by Guru
Gobind Singh, broke away from .Banda with 5,000 Sikhs. Others
who hesitated pressed Banda to take pahul, begin to eat meat, drink
wine and wear black clothes instead of red clothes, in order to retain
their loyalty. Banda declined to do so. They also fell off and
joined Binod Singh. This party called itself Tatva Khalsa or the
real Khalsa. Those who stuck fast to Banda were called Bandai
Sikhs. They were almost equally divided, each group containing
about 15,000 Sikhs.
The Emperor sent presents of doshalas and arms and other articles
to the Tatva Khalsa. A contingent of 5,000 Sikhs under command
of Kahan Singh, his son Miri Singh, Fatah Singh of Bhagto,
and Sham Singh Naurangwalia was taken into service by the
Governor of Lahore. Each horseman was paid Rs. 30 p.m., a footman
Rs. 15 pm. and a Sardar Rs. 5 daily. The Sikhs who preferred
to stay at Amritsar were paid Rs. 5,000 monthly. The parganah
of Jhabal was granted to meet the expenses of the langar, and grain
and fodder for horses. l
The division in the Sikhs was to be confirmed at the sacred shrine
of Amritsar. Hence the Sikhs were allowed to celebrate the Diwali
at Amritsar in November 1714 without any fear of molestation.
On this occasion the Tatva Khalsa made a formal isolation from
Bandais, and offered their allegiance as well as active service
against the Bandais to the Governor of Lahore.
Revolt of Husain Khan Kheshgi of Kasur
To stabilize the bifurcation the Tatva Khalsa gave a practical
proof. Abdus Samad Khan was then busy in suppressing the rebellion
of Husain Khan Kheshgi of Kasur. There was only a small
force at Lahore. Banda marched from Amritsar and encamped near
village Kahali. The next halt was made at village Ghanayeki. He
then advanced upon Lahore. The Lahore army came out to oppose
him. Their advance-guard consisted of the Tatva Khalsa under Miri
Singh. At the sight of his comrades arrayed on the enemy side
Banda felt disgusted. He lost the ground and retired into the hills.2
Husain Khan Kheshgi had revolted against the Panjab Governor.
Khafi Khan says he was inCIted into rebellion by the Sayyid
Brothers who headed the Hindustani party in opposition to the
Turani party at the Mughal court. Abdus Samad was an important
leader of the Turani party. Husain Khan took possession of
IRatan Singh Bhangu, Prachin Pan/Ii Prakasli, Wazir-e-Hind Press, Amritsar,
date of publication not given, pp. 152-58, 1914 edition, pp. 192-99; santokh
Singh, Shri Gllru Prakash SlIra) Grant/I, Uttar Ain Ans XIII, 374; Giani
Gian Singh, Pallih Prakash, II, 4th edition, Amritsar, 30-31;
Religion, original edition, 218-20; Karam Singh, Banda Bahadur Kaun Tha
several places in the neighbourhood of Kasur. He turned out many
Imperial jagirdars and faujdars. Abdus Samad sent an expeditionary
force to punish him. The Mughal commander was killed in
the battIe, and his baggage and treasure were plundered by the
Husain Khan recruited an army of about nine thousand horsemen.
Abdus Samad also raised a force of equal number and marched
against him. Both the armies fought near Chunian, about 30 kms
south of Lahore. It was a long and fiercely contested battle. At
length an arrow struck Husain Khan: His elephant whose driver
had been killed ran about at random. A shower of bullets and
arrows feIl on it. The howdah caught fire. Husain Khan feIl dead.
Many of his Afghans were killed. The rest took to flight. The
Emperor conferred the title of Saif-ud-daulah (Sword of the State)
on Abdus Samad Khan.1
Banda captured alive, December 1715
The fall of Sikh power was now sure and certain. (Is ghar ko iig
lag gai ghar ke c1ziriigh se). Banda still had 14,000 combatants
with him. However, the courageous Banda did not lose heart and
continued to perform his mission of destruction anddevastation.2
Emperor Farrukh Siyar sent a strong force of 20,000 troops
from Delhi,3 under Qamar-ud-din Khan. He was joined by 5,000
troops from Sarhind. Orders were issued to Abdus Samad Khan
and his son Zakariya Khan to seize Banda alive. AIl the three
Turani leaders were related to one another. The mother of Qamarud-
din and wife of Abdus Samad Khan were real sisters. Zakariya
Khan, son of Abdus Samad Khan, was married to the sister of
Qamar-ud-din. Thus the campaign became a family affair of the
Banda was at that time carrying on operations to the north of
Amritsar. Just then the Mughal army appeared on the scene with
the determination of a crusader. Banda retired northward with a
view to take shelter in the fort of Gurdaspur. It had been recently
extended so as to accommodate sixty thousand horse and foot. Large
stores of grain and fodder had also been collected there. The
Mughal army converged upon him from three sides. The Delhi
IKhafi Khan, II,
force of 20.000 men under Qamar-ud-din Khan advanced from the
east. the Lahore troops about 10,000 under Abdus Samad Khan
marched from the south. and the Jammu soldiery nearly 5.000
under Zakariya Khan moved from the north. To the west lay river
Ravi. There was no bridge over it. All the boats had been withdrawn
to the opposite bank which was closely guarded by numerous
local chiefs and government officials. The pursuit was so tight
that Banda could not enter his fort at Gurdaspur. He turned west.
Finding that all the ways of escape had been barred he rushed into
the have/i of Dunichand which had a large open compound with a
wall around it at village Gurdas Nangal, 6 kms to the west of
Gurdaspur. In it Banda accommodated 1,250 men with a small
number of horses. The other Sikhs who could not be lodged therein
tried to flee in all directions. They fell an easy prey to the fury of
the Mugbal army. According to Khafi Khan three or four thousand
of them were massacred. He filled that extensive pain with
blood as if it had been a dish.l Khafi Khan further observes:
“Those who escaped the sword, were sent in collars and chains to
the Emperor. Abdus Samad sent nearly two thousand heads stuffed
with hay and a thousand persons bound with iron chains in charge
of his soo, Zakariya Khan. and others to the Emperor.'”
Banda dug a ditch around the enclosure and filled it with water
from the canal flowing nearby. The imperialists also dug trenches
all around the enclosure. It took place in the beginning of April
- This news reached Farrukh Siyar on April 17. 1715.
The siege lasted a little over eight months. The full summer
from April to June, the entire rainy season from July to September,
and half of winter from October to the beginning of December
passed in this condition with frequent sorties and occasional skirmishes.
Banda’s enclosure was closely invested on all sides. On the east
lay the Delhi troops under Qamar-ud-din Khan. On the north was
Zakariya Khan, faujdar of Jammu and Zain-ud-din Ahmad Khan.
Governor of Sarhind. To the south was Abdus Samad Khan of
Lahore. The western side on the river Ravi was guarded by petty
chiefs and jagirdars such as faujdars of Gujrat. Eminabad, Patti,
Kalanaur and R~s of Kaogra and Jasrota.s
Banda was popular in Sarhind province for having abolished the
Zamindari. In the Bari Doab the people did not support him. The
Sikhs offered the most stubborn resistance. Muhamad Qasim who
fought against the Sikhs in this campaign wrote: “The brave and
daring deeds of the infernal Sikhs were wonderful. Twice or thrice
everyday some forty or fifty of the black-faced Sikhs came out oftheir
enclosure to gather grass for their cattle, and, when the combined
forces of the Imperialists went to oppose them, they made an end
of the Mughals with arrows, muskets and small swords, and disappeared.
Such was the terror of the Sikhs and the fear of the
sorceries of the Sikh Chief that the commanders of this army prayed
that God might so ordain things that Banda should seek his safety
in flight from the Garhi.”l
Eventually all supplies of foodstuff and fodder came to a dead
stop. All animals died, and their flesh was eaten. Then their bones
and bark of trees were powdered and eaten. Many Sikhs died of
hunger and the rest were completely famished and reduced to
Seeing that resistance had completely ceased, the Mughal army
on December 7, 1715, ventured into the enclosure. About three
hundred men almost on the verge of death were beheaded. Their
bodies were cut up in search of gold coins which they were believed
to have swallowed. Banda with his 740 followers was captured.
The following articles were recovered from the enclosure:
Small kirpans 217
Bows and arrow cases 173
Gold mohars 23
Gold ornaments a few
With this beggarly equipment in men, money and material and living
in a small house with an open compound, Banda had defied the
mighty Mughal Empire for over eight months. No better record
than this challenge can be traced anywhere else in world history.
Banda’s scoffing procession in Delhi
In chains and fetters Banda was put in an iron cage which was
hooked up on the back of a tall elephant. The others with ludicrous
paper caps on their heads were fastened on camels, horses and
asses, and later on chained on feet, waist and neck were tied in twos
and threes and were placed in bullock carts. Bandsmen, buglers
and drummers playing loudly went ahead, followed by 300 Sikh
heads stuck up on spears. Qamar-ud-din’s cavalry was in front of
all, while Zakariya Khan’s horsemen were in the rear. Last of all
followed the nobles, faujdars and rajas at the head of their troops.
While passing through towns and cities people thronged in the
bazars and streets and on house tops and in balconies in crowds.
In the countryside spectators stood on both sides of the road. l
The prisoners were first led to Lahore and then to Delhi. At
Lahore the mother of Bayazid Khan, the deceased Governor of
Sarhind, threw a heavy stone from the balcony of the house on the
Sikh procession and killed a Sikh. The number of Sikh heads went
on increasing by the execution of innocent Sikhs captured on the
way. At Lahore the number of Sikh heads was 700, and in Delhi
2,000. In Muslim towns such as Sarhind, Kamal and Panipat the
people treated the prisoners with utmost insolence, “usual with
bigots and common among barbarous or half-civilized conquerors.”
2 They heaped every indignity upon them. They used filthy
abuses, mocked, whistled, ridiculed, laughed to scorn, scoffed,
jeered, taunted, grinned, sneered at, hissed, hooted, pointed the
finger at, turned up their noses at, snapped their fingers at, and
spat at. The Sikhs drowned this mockery by singing in chorus
hymns from the holy Granth.3
They reached the Shalimar Garden near Delhi on February 25,
- Muhammad Amin Khan, father of Qamar-ud-din Khan, came
to receive them and the following morning led them to the Red Fort.
On February 29, 1716, the Hindu festival day of Holi, they were
taken out in a procession. Bands played ahead of all. Then followed
2,000 Sikh heads stuffed with straw fixed on’ spears and
bamboos, their long hair flowing with the wind. After them came
the dead body of a cat mounted on a long pole to show that not
even a cat or dog was left alive in Sikh homes. Behind it was Banda
in an iron cage on a lofty elephant. A red turban with borders
embroidered in gold was placed on his head. On his body was a
crimson robe of brocade wrought in flowers of gold. It was a mockery
of a bridegroom. A stalwart Mughal soldier in a coat of arms
with a shining sword in hand stood behind him The 740 prisoners
were behind Banda’s elephant. To vilify them their faces were made
black in order to have uniformity with their hair. Black sheep-skin
high-coned caps with glass beads sewn on them were placed on their
heads. Some were dressed in sheep-skins, the woolly side being outward.
Their left hands were tied to their necks with two pieces of
wood. They were bound back to back in pairs and two pairs were
mounted on the bare back of a camel. In the rear of the cavalcade
were Amin Khan (later on Prime Minister), his son Qamar-ud-din
Khan (also Prime Minister, and his son-in-law Zakariya Khan later
Viceroy of Panjab). They rode at the head of a strong contingent
of Mughal troops. The road from Shalimar Garden to the Red
Fort 10 kms long was lined on both sides with troops and lakhs of
The eye-witness Mirza Muhammad Harsi writes: On this day I
had gone to see the pageant (tamasha) as far as the Mandavi-eNamak.
From there I accompanied the procession to Qila-e-Mubarik.
There was hardly anyone in the city who had not come out to
see the spectacle of the accursed. There was such a crowd in the
bazars and streets as had rarely been seen. The Muslims could not
contain themselves with joy. But those unfortunate fellows who had
been reduced to this misery were thorougly contented with their
fate. Their faces bore not the slightest sign of dejection and humility.
In fact most of them on camels were busy in singing. If any
one of the spectators remarked: ‘Now you will be killed,’ they replied:
“Kill us. When were we afraid of death? Had we been afraid
of it, how could we have fought so many battles with you? It was
through sheer starvation and want of food that we fell into your
hands, otherwise the truth of our bravery is known to yoU.”l
Sayyid Muhammad was another beholder. He wrote: “At that
time I asked one of them by signs why they had committed such
rudeness (gustakhi) and mischief (shokhi). He placed his hand on
his forehead indicating that it was predestined. This expression
The procession passed along the 10 kms long road, abused, scoffed
and laughed at throughout. They were brought back to the
Red Fort after demonstration. Kahan Singh son of Binod Singh
was the leader of Tatva Khalsa who had gone over to the Mughals
and fought against Banda at Lahore. He declined to join the imperial
army in the siege of Gurdas Nangal. He was arrested and
sent in the retinue of Banda to Delhi. When the regular slaughter
of the Sikhs began in front of the Kotwali, Mata Sundari planned
to save Kahan Singh’s life. The Mughal officers and guards on
Sikh prisoners were heavily bribed, and Kahan Singh was substituted
by another Sikh.l Baj Singh who was a descendant of Gurll
Amar Das,2 also escaped. 3
714 Sikhs are beheaded at Kotwali
Banda and his twenty-six officials were separated from the rest
by Sarbrah Khan Kotwa!. The remaining Sikhs were divided into
seven groups, each of 100 Sikhs to be beheaded on all the seven
days of the week. The execution began on March S, 1716. The
Sikhs were led in batches to Kotwali and made to stand in rows of
ten in front of the police office where now stands the fountain
(Fuwara). Before execution an offer was made to spare their lives if
they could become Musalman. None volunteered to do so. They
uttered Wah Guru, Wah Guru, and tried to outbid one another in
offering themselves for sacrifice saying, “me, mukta (deliverer)! kill
me first,” was the prayer which constantly rang in the ears of the
All observers, Indian and Europeans, unite in remarking on the
wonderful patience and resolution with which these men met their
fate. Their attachment and devotion to their leader was astonishing
to behold. They had no fear of death, and they called the executioner
Mukta or the Deliverer.’
Among Banda’s followers there was a lad on whose face soft hair
was just appearing. Being the only son of a widow, he was the
centre of all her hopes and ambitions. According to the old custom
he had been recenty married as he wore the wedding thread on his
wrist. He was so deeply touched at the sight of the Sikhs
through his village on their way to Delhi, that he left his home and
joined Banda’s party. His mother and wife entreated him to return
home, but he did not yield. Both the women accompanied him
weeping and crying. They reached Delhi and sought help from
Ratanchand. Diwan of Prime Minister Sayyid Abdullah. They submitted
that the boy was not a Sikh prisoner nor the follower of the
Guru, and that his life should be spared. On the recommendation
of Ratanchand Sayyid Abdullah issued orders for his release. The
mother and wife reached the Kotwali and learnt that he was marked
for execution on that very day. He was found standing in a row
outside the Kotwali.
The further scene was witnessed by Khafi Khan and Khushhal
Chand. Khafi Khan says that when a police official was setting him
free, the boy declined to go. He shouted: “My mother is a liar. 1
am heart and soul a devoted disciple of my leader (Murshid). Finish
me quickly with my companions.”1 Khushhal Chand writes that
the lad declined to recognise his mother and wife saying: “I do not
know whose mother she is and from where she has brought this
girl. 1 do not understand what she talks. My companions have
gone. I have no time to lose. The delay is painful to me.”2
The heart-breaking lamentations of the mother and the bride,
persuasion of officials, and entreaties of bystanders bore no fruit.
He rushed back to his place, put his head before the executioner,
and lay dead in the twinkling of an eye.
The heads and bodies lay in separate heaps the whole day. In
the evening they were taken out of the city in carts and hung upon
trees along the roads.
Some Englishmen as representatives of the British East India
Company were then present in the capital. On March 10,1716, they
submitted a brief report on the “Arrest and Massacre c.f the Sikhs
at Delhi” to the Governor of Fort William, Calcutta, in which they
said about Banda: “He at present has his life prolonged with most
of his mutsuddys in hope to get an account of his treasure in the
several parts of his kingdom and of those that assisted him, when
afterwards he will be executed, for the rest there are 100 each day
beheaded. It is not a little remarkable with what patience they
undergo their fate, and to the last it has not been found that one
apostatised from their new formed Religion.”I
Banda executed near Qutab Minar
Banda’s wife, a princess of Chamba, his 4-year-old son AJai and
child’s nurse had been arrested at Chamba and brought to Delhi.
They were admitted into the harem of Darbar Khan Nazir. Banda
and his 26 officials were tortured for three months and a half to disclose
places of their hidden treasure. When all attempts had failed,
it was decided to execute Banda on June 9, 1716, and his officials
the following day.
The same old golden turban and cloak were put on Banda. Fettered
and chained all over he was placed in an iron cage which was
fastened on the back of an elephant. His companions were put on
the bare back of camels. They were preceded by Sarbrah Khan
Kotwal at the head of his police force. In the rear was Ibrahim-uddin,
Head of Artillery. The procession passed through the main
streets of Delhi. They were taken to the tomb of Khwaja Qutabud-
din Bakhtiyar Kaki near Qutab Minar in Mehrauli 16 kms distant
from the Red Fort. They were led around the tomb of the late
Emperor Bahadur Shah who had failed in suppressing Banda’s rebellion
so as to give satisfaction to his soul. The leading nobles had
already gathered there.
Banda was taken out of the cage and seated on the ground. As
usual he was offered life on his embracing Islam. The proposal was
rejected. Though heavily chained his right hand was freed. His son,
Ajai, was placed in his lap, and a dagger put in his right hand to
kill the child. Banda did not stir. Thereupon the dagger was thrust
into the body of the child, and his heart and entrails were thrust
into Banda’s mouth. He shut his mouth and he remained absolutely
unmoved.- Muhammad Amin Khan, later on Prime Minister, was
standing nearby. He came closer and intensely looked into the eyes
of Banda. He was deeply impressed with his noble features. He
remarked: “It is surprising that one, who shows so much acuteness
in hL. features, and so much of nobility in his conduct, should have
been guilty of such horrors.”
In complete composure and tranquillity Banda replied, “I will
II.T. Wheeler, Early Records of British lndia. Whenever men become so corrupt and wicked as to relinquish
the sence of equity and to abandon themselves to all kinds of
excesses, then the providence never fails to raise up a scourage 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.”
After this Banda’s right eye was dug out with a sharp pointed
dagger. Then the left eye was removed in a similar manner. With a
pause his left foot was chopped off. A little while afterwards both of
his arms were lopped off. Then with red-hot pincers his flesh was
cut off bit by bit. Later his legs, ears and nose were removed from
his body. His brain was blown out with a hammer. Last of aU his
remaining body was hacked to pieces.
This horrid savagery lasted the whole day. Banda displayed heavenly
calm, no tears, no cries, no groaning, no expression of grief,
no jerk in the body, and no sign of pain. Throughout he remained
composed and collected, serene and steady, unruflled and unstirred.
A curious creature was he, this Banda Bahadur. He had a power
of concentrating his mind on something away from his body and
his surroundings with such intensity as if he were in a trance.
This abominable scene was staged before the very eyes of Banda’s
officials who included among themselves Fatah Singh, Ali Singh and
Gulab Singh Bakhshi who had remained in the Lohgarh fort after
Banda’s escape.2 They were beheaded on June 10,1716, at the same
Banda did not die in vain. This tragic event changed the course
of not only Sikh history but also of the history of Panjab. Banda
had shown to the Sikhs the difference between those who were in
power and those who were out of it. The lesson of power once
practically taught could not be forgotten by a militant community.
They continuously worked to regain what they had lost and in half
a century became undisputed masters of the Land of Five Rivers.
Banda’s place in history
Banda was a Rajput. The blood of a Kshatriya flowed in his
veins. Thus he inherited the spirit of bravery, heroism, love of
independence &r.d self.sfcrifice from his race. This spirit was further
strengthened by his long residence in Maharashtra where he
had seen with his own eyes how Shambhuji, son of Shivaji, his
step-brother Rajaram and his widow, Tara Bai, had carried on a life
and death struggle against Aurangzeb who was personally leatiing a_
campaign of annihilation against the Marathas. His dormant spirit
of nationalism was awakened and put into its practical application
by Guru Gobind Singh. His national enthusiasm was further aroused
by the Guru’s sufferings and sacrifices and ultimately by his
death as a result of the Mughal trickery.
Curiously, Banda had a great resemblance in looks with Guru
Gobind Singh. He possessed the same medium height and bulk of
the body and colour of the face. Under his bushy beard and moustaches
and long hair on head, the facial features also looked alike.
Further both spoke the same language which was a mixture of Hindi
and Panjabi. Both were fond of covering themselves with arms capa-
pie. Both were in possession of a commanding voice and manner
which resulted in implicit obedience from their followers. Both
could arouse the zeal for supreme sacrifice of their devotees.
Banda aimed at national awakening and liberation of the country
from the oppressive government of the Mughals. Guru Hargobind
and Guru Gobind Singh had transformed the Sikhs from a peaceful
people into a class of warriors. They fought against the government
in self-defence. They never took any offensive. They did not
acquire territory, did not take prisoners, and did not seize enemy’s
property and wealth. The two Gurus never tried to establish their
own rule in their own territory. They believed it belonged to the
Government. The government rules were obeyed, and government
coins were used.
Banda, on the other hand, always took offensive. He fought battles,
took prisoners and killed them, seized the enemy’s property
and lands, and set up his own government. He issued his own coins,
had his own official seal and gave orders which had the force of
firmans of the Mughal Emperors. He did not want to weaken the
Mughal power, but to destroy its root and branch, and to establish
in its place national rule or self-government.
Banda was the first man who laid down the foundation of political
sovereignty of the Sikhs. He made Sikhism popular with the
people of Panjab, not by force or persuasion, but by his bravery
and generosity. In about a year, more than one lakh of persons
embraced Sikhism and became the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh.
Those who had not heard the names of the Gurus, were attracted
towards Sikhism by Banda’s victories. Banda had shown what selfgovernment
meant. After his fall the lesson was not lost on the
Sikhs. He had brought about a revolution in the minds of the peo~
pie. A will was created in the masses. Heads could be cut off, but
the ideas remained, leading ultimately to ‘iuccess.
Banda was a great reformer. He broke down the barriers of caste,
creed and religion. He appointed sweepers and cobblers as big
officers before whom high caste Hindus, Brahmins and Kshatriyas
stood with folded hands awaiting their orders. He believed in socialism.
He distributed all his riches among his folowers. He abolished
the zamindari system and established peasant-proprietorship
making the actual tillers of the soil its masters. He was opposed to
the use of intoxicant drugs. He prohibited drinking of bhang and
wine and smoking of tobacco or charas.
He knew the real cause of the weakness of Hindus. The spirit of
mercy, compassion, sympathy, tenderness, forbearance and their
melting mood inculcated in them by religion (Daya Dharam ka mul
hai), had been responsible for the slavery of the Hindus by people
from the north-west. He showed that the only way to meet the eternal
foe was to adopt the policy of paying them in their own coin, a
tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye, and to payoff old scores.
The Sikhs learnt this lesson from Banda and admirably succeeded
in establishing their own rule in their homeland.
Banda possessed the high ideal of life, sincerity, honesty, indomitable
spirit, unbounded enthusiasm, rare daring, single-minded devotion
to his cause, dare-devilry of the highest type and nobility of
character. It was for this reason that none of his 740 followers renounced
his faith to save his life. Even a young lad who had been
pardoned by the Prime Minister refused to leave Banda in the face
Banda seems to have destroyed about haif a lakh of Muslims.
This brutality cannot be approved in any age by any people. But
some justification can be offered from the condition of the times.
Banda was a contemporary of Aurangzeb. He had killed all the
Satnamis even to a man, woman or child, numbering about 50,000.
The same number if not more of the Jats of Bharatpur-Agra-Dclbi
region were destroyed. Rajputs and Marathas must share between
themselves a loss of about 50,000 men each. The total number was
death was in addition. There was almost wholesale destruction of
Hindu temples and other religious institutions in northern India.
Banda had travelled from north to south and back again, and he
had seen all this destruction, rape and rapine with his own eyes.
The Rajput spirit was throbbing in him. It was lying dormant
under an ashes-smeared skin. This spirit was aroused by Guru
Gobind Singh, and retaliation was a natural consequence. Latif
says that Guru Gobind Singh had selected Banda for “avenging
the death of his father and two sons, for which purpose he could not have singled out a better instrument than this ruthless bloodsucker.”
After his conquest of Sarhind Banda considerably mellowed down in his fury against the Muslim population. He placed no restrictions on their Azan and Nimaz. At Kalanaur in April 1711 he recruited 5,000 Muslims in his army.2 To sum up, Banda was a demon in the eyes of Muslims, a great national hero for Hindus, and for the Sikhs their first empire builder.
In Indian history he occupies the place of a genius spiritual,political and military, consecrated or perverted as one might think.
In world history he should rank not less than Alexander the Great,Halaku, Chingiz Khan, Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali or Napoleon Bonaparte.
(Courtesy:- History of the Sikhs volume 2- Hari Ram Gupta)