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Banda Singh Bahadur

Banda Singh Bahadur (Punjabi: (16701716) was a Sikh warrior and martyr. He became part of struggle
against the Mughal Empire in the early 18th century, after meeting Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Gobind Singh
gave him the new name of Banda Singh Bahadur. He is best known for the sack of the Mughal provincial
capital, Sirhind, and is revered as one of the most hallowed martyrs of the Khalsa.

His brief agrarian uprising against the Mughal administration in the Punjab region of northern India was a
critical event in the development of the Dal Khalsa and the Sikh Misls, which eventually led to Ranjit
Singh capturing Lahore in 1799 and establishing the Sikh Kingdom of the Punjab.

After establishing his authority in Punjab, Banda Singh Bahadur abolished the zamindari system, and granted
property rights to the actual tillers of the land.

Early life
There are different views regarding origin of Banda Singh Bahadur:

According to prominent sikh Historians such as Dr. Ganda Singh, Harbans Singh Bhatia,Khushwant
Singh, Sir Gokul Chand Narang, Dr Hari Ram Gupta and some other scholars, he was a DograRajput.[1][2]
According to this version, he was born on October 16, 1670 at Rajouri in
the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir. He was named Lachman Dev. Wrestling, horseback riding,
and hunting were his major hobbies. As a young man, he once shot dead a doe and was shocked to
watch the mother and her aborted fawn writhing in pain and dying. After this gloomy scene he had a
change of heart. He left his home and became a disciple of a Bairagi Sadhu: Janaki Das, who gave him
the name: Madho Das. In the company of the Sadhus, he travelled through Northern India and finally
arrived at Nanded (in present-day Maharashtra), situated on the bank of the river Godavari.

In the Mahan kosh, a Sikh encyclopedia written by Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha, (Bhasha Bibhag
Punjab, Patiala), it is stated that he was Minhas Rajput, either from Rajouri in Jammu region or Doaba
region of Punjab.

P.N. Bali calls him a Mohyal Brahmin.[14]

Hakim Rai calls him a Punjabi Khatri/Sikh Rajput.[15]

Giani Budh singh a noted scholar of Poonch in his famous book "chhowen Rattan" described Banda
bahadur as "Brahmin".

Also a book released by all India Brahmin sikh described him as


J.D Cunningham labelled him a native of South India. [16]

Major A.E. Barstow called him a runaway Peshwa Maratha.[17]

Major James Brown thought he was a native of Punjab. [18]

Some authors such as Dr. Sukhdyal Singh of Punjabi University, Patiala, have claimed that Banda
Bahadur was a commander of the Sikh Regiment in the imperial army of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah.
But, this is totally unbelieable. If he was a soldier of Bahadur Shah, when did he leave him? If he was in
the army, there was no question of having a 'dera' (cult centre) in Nander.

Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer in his book 'Sikh Twareekh (1469-2007)' (published by Singh Brothers
Amritsar, in 5 volumes in 2008) narrates that Banda Singh was a Rajput, born in 1670. At the age of 16
he left his home and joined the party of wandering ascetics. He spent two years with two saadhus (Janki
Das and then Ram Das)and then joined Baba Lunia, near Burhanpur. In 1696, he met Guru Gobind Singh
at Kankhal, near Hardwar but this was a short meeting. After this, the Guru visited him in August 1708.

[edit]Banda's Mission
Guru Gobind Singh hoped that Emperor Bahadur Shah would fulfill his promise against the Governor of
Sirhind, and his accomplices for persecuting the people of Punjab. It was the Governor of Sirhind who had
captured and murdered the Guru's mother, Mata Gujri and his two younger children, Sahibzada Zorawar
Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh, for their continued refusal to convert to Islam. The promise was made by
Bahadur Shah to the Guru earlier, when Shah asked the Guru to help him consolidate his rule over India,
following the death of his father, Emperor Aurangzeb. Guru Gobind Singh had rendered help to Bahadur Shah
in the war of succession after the death of Aurangzeb, in which Bahadur Shah emerged as a victor. Bahadur
Shah never carried out his promise. He may have been reluctant to do so or unable to do so during his
delicate rule. The Guru was disappointed with duplicity of new Muslim ruler even though he and his Sikhs had
been traveling with the Emperor to the Deccan, the Guru decided to part ways with the Muslim ruler for once
again betraying Sikhs. Earlier 9th Sikh Guru had been brutally murdered by Bahadur Shah's tyrant and
fanatically orthodox Islamist father Aurangzeb.

In a few days, the Guru held a darbar and administered Pahul (ceremonial initiation into Khalsa) to Madho
Das and naming him Gurbaksh Singh (beloved by the Guru). He appointed him as his jathedar (military
commander) and invested him with full political and military authority as his deputy to lead the campaign in
the Punjab against the Muslim and Mughal administration, to avenge the murders of Sikh gurus and their
families and innocent civilian followers by Muslims, and to punish Nawab Wazir Khan and his supporters for
these inhumane crimes.

The Guru gave Banda five arrows from his quiver by as a symbol of temporal authority. He was given an
advisory council of the following five devoted Sikhs (Hazuri Singhs), who on their arrival in the Punjab were to
assure the Sikhs that Banda was the Guru's nominee and deputy and to organize them in order to lead an
expedition against Muslims and Sirhind to avenge the atrocities against Sikhs:

Bhagwant Singh Bangeshri, a cousin of Bhai Mani Singh

Baj Singh, brother of Bhagwant Singh Singh
Kuir Singh singh, brother of Bhagwant Singh Singh
Dharam Singh
Fateh Singh

(These names appear in 'Guru Kian Sakhin' written in 1790 by Swarup Singh kaushish).

Twenty five soldiers were to accompany Banda from Nanded to Punjab. A Hukumnamah (edict) by the Guru,
instructing Sikhs to join Banda Bahadur in his struggle against Muslim tyrant Wazir Khan (Mughal Goverener
of Punjab) was provided. As an insignia of the temporal authority vested in him, the Guru also gave Banda
Bahadur his own sword, green bow, nagara (War drum) and a Nishan Sahib(religious sign). Three hundred
Sikh Risaldari ( cavaliers) in battle array accompanied Banda up to a distance of eight kilometres to give him
a final send off.

[edit]Banda's strategy and tactics

4. Strategy in simple language is the high level planning prior to a campaign and tactics in its implementation.
Bandas strategy was to reach Punjab after avoiding the dangers enroute and mobilizing an army of
volunteers arming and training them in an impossibly short period, and then by the tactics of, what I term as
the "Crumbling Process", bite into the mighty Mughal administrative centers one by one. This process was the
only way to achieve the Gurus mission of punishing a powerful enemy who was committing crime after crime
against his people. Banda must have mentally and theoretically made grandiose plans during his long journey
of nearly one year from Nander to Punjab. Whatever these dreams, this born leader of men executed them to
perfection with a masterly application of the crumbling process. One by one the Mughal bastions, SAMANA,
GHURAM, THASKA, MUSTAFBAD and SADHAURA were captured, until he reached the outskirts of
SIRHIND. His main target was to revenge the ruthless torture and killing of the brave and innocent

5. Instinctively, Banda Bahadur adopted the vital principles of war - Surprise Flexibility, Offensive action and
Concentration of Force at a point to gain local superiority. He overcame garrison after garrison by brilliantly
applying these to perfection. Even Muslim authors of the time such as Qazi Noor Mohammad, Ghulam
Hussain Mohammad, Qasim Kamwar Khan and Khafi Khan grudgingly praised the Tiger-like fighting quality of
the Sikh Soldier. In an article of a magazine it is not possible to trace Banda Bahadur's entire campaign, so as
to highlight his brilliant strategy and tactics. Yet it would be worthwhile amplifying this by select examples.

Banda's kingdom
Banda ruled over the region bounded on the north by the Shiwalik hills, on the west by the river Tangri, on the
east by the river Jamuna, and in the south by a line passing through Samana, Thanesar, Kaithal and Karnal.
He abolished the Zamindari System of land prevailing under the Mughals and declared the actual cultivators
as the owners of land. Thus he established 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."

[edit]The battle of Sirhind

[edit]Banda's Troops
Banda Singh Bahadur devoted three months in organizing his civil and military administration. Bahadur Shah
was still away only less than 100 km from Delhi, yet the weak and nominal Muslim rulers of Delhi of Mohgul
origin had no strength to confront Banda Singh Bahadur.

Wazir Khan of Sirhind was making his own preparations independently to meet the danger from Banda Singh

Banda's troops were mostly untrained Sikh peasants, raw levies and not fully armed. Banda possessed no
elephants, no good horses and few guns. His followers had immense Sikh pride coupled with burning desire
to avenge against Muslims, armed only with matchlocks, agricultural spears, swords, bows and arrows.
According to Khafi Khan, the number of Banda's troops rose from thirty to forty thousand. Muslims mohgul
completely lost the control of areas in current day Harayana and Panjab. Assisted by his Sikh peasant army,
Banda Singh Bahadur established complete and popular sovereignty, implementing agricultural land
ownership reforms and accumulating volunteer Sarv-khap based Sikh forces to fight to over throw Muslims
controls. Jats, Gujars and Rajputs supported by all other castes belonging to Hindu and Sikh played a vital
part, even to the extent of eliminating converted Ranghars who mainly cow-towed and submitted to their
conquering Muslim rulers.

[edit]Wazir Khan's preparations

Wazir Khan had proclaimed a jihad or a holy war against Banda. He was joined by the Nawab of Malerkotla,
other Muslim chiefs and jagirdars as well as Ranghars in large numbers. The majority of his soldiers were
trained men. Wazir Khan's own forces were six thousand horsemen, eight to nine thousand musketeers
(burqandaz) and archers, and with these about ten guns of artillery and many elephants. In addition, there
were about ten thousand Ghazis. The total number of Wazir Khan's troops was about thirty thousand.

Banda advanced from Lohgarh and halted at Banur, near Ambala, fourteen kilometres from Rajpura. Banda
sacked the town, and then went towards Sirhind.

[edit]The Battle of Chhappar Chiri

It is said that like Napolean, Banda Bahadur observed the battlefield from a high and prominent area. He kept
in hand an elite reserve ready to be committed in a lightning strike in the most vulnerable area in order to
achieve a breakthrough. At Chappar Chiri the Mughals were far superior in numbers, Weapons and Guns.
Bandas soldiers had long spears, arrows, swords and of course indomitable courage. He lost men in the
early phase of the battle but broke through by launching himself and his lion like reserves at a vital moment in
a weakened salient on the plains of Chappar Chiri's wide open battlefield. So fierce was this, that as
described by Khafi Khan, horses, elephants fell in the hands of the infidels horsemen and footmen in large
numbers fell under the swords of the infidels, who pursued them as far as SIRHIND. Wazir Khan fell from his
horse and was captured alive. The Mughal army was completely routed but Banda Bahadur lost nearly 5000
soldiers killed and his men carried out the last rites of the fallen Sikhs at the battle site before entering
SIRHIND. Wazir khan was killed and his body hung from a prominent tree upside down. This tree still stands
as a symbol of the fate that is reserved for tyrants.

The battle was fought on May 12, 1710 at Chhappar Chiri, twenty kilometres from Sirhind. On the Mughal
side, Sher Muhammad Khan, the Nawab of Malerkotla was the leader of the right flank. Wazir Khan was in
command of the centre. Suchanand, Diwan of the Nawab was put on the left. Suchanand instigated the death
of Guru Gobind Singh's youngest two children. On the Sikhs' side, Baj Singh and Binod Singh (two of the five
Sikhs sent by Guru Gobind along with Banda to the Punjab) headed the right and left flanks respectively while
Banda commanded the centre facing Wazir Khan's army.

Suchanand could not withstand Baj Singh's attack and fled. Sher Mohammed Khan was about to overpower
Binod Singh's wing when he was suddenly 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. Baj Singh and Binod Singh now joined Banda. During their combined assault, Wazir Khan was

Wazir Khan's death is variously described. According to the most accepted view Baj Singh rushed upon Wazir
Khan, who threw a spear at the Sikh. Baj Singh caught hold of it and 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, before rushing
upon him with his sword. At this juncture, Fateh Singh came to Baj Singh's rescue. It is related that he swung
his sword with such force that Wazir Khan was sliced from shoulder to waist.
[edit]Lessons learned
[edit]Concentration of Force
Banda Bahadur did not attack Wazir Khan's Army until he was able to join up with the Khalsa re-inforcements
from Majha and Doaba. This he did, in spite of knowing that the enemy was digging in and preparing
formidable defences at Chapper Chiri. He hid his forces from effective artillery fire in the thick grove of trees
behind small hillocks.

This time Banda knew that surprise had been lost and, this was now a battle between a large well equipped
Mughal Army with Guns, which would decimate his force in a frontal attack. He now changed his tactics and
ordered commando raids at night to first silence the Artillery which were causing heavy casualties even under
cover. Once this was done, his archers and musketeers, who were under cover, caused heavy casualties to
the Enemy Cavalry and the elephants ran riot. In this confusion his own cavalry must have attacked the flanks
and rear, while his valiant marching troops launched early morning frontal attacks. They still took casualties as
the Mughal fire power was still effective until hand to hand fighting was joined. Here Banda timed his master
stroke to perfection. Observing the whole scene from a high Tibba, he launched himself and his reserves - a
brilliant strike into the Mughal vitals. Sikhs were masters of hand to hand fighting. Once the Mughal lines
broke, there was no stopping the offensive force. It was indeed brilliant victory for a brilliant Commander. He
had not violated a single principal of war.

[edit]Pursuit of fugitives
Wazir 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. Sirhind's troops on beholding the Nawab's head took alarm, and fled in dismay and
despair. The Sikhs fell upon them and there was a terrible carnage. The Sikhs reached Sirhind 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 at night. Wazir Khan's family and many Muslim nobles fled to
Delhi at night.

By the next afternoon, the Sikhs forced open the gates and fell upon the city. The Government treasury and
moveable property worth two crores fell into Banda's hand which was removed to Lohgarh. Banda Singh
Bahadur purified several Muslims (who were earlier forcefully converted to Islam from Hinduism) by letting
them to embraced Sikhism by their free will. For example, Dindar Khan son of Jalal Khan Rohilla purified
himself by purging himself of Islam by embracing Sikhism by changing his name as Dindar Singh. Same way
Mir Nasir-ud-din the official newswriter of Sirhind, purified himself by shunning Islam and reconverting with
new name as Mir Nasir Singh.

[edit]The province of Sirhind occupied

Sirhind was the economic and provincial capital of Mughals.The entire province of Sirhind consisting of
twenty-eight paraganas and extending from the Satluj to the Jamuna and from the Shiwalik hills to Kunjpura,
Karnal and Kaithal, yielding Rs. fifty-two lakhs (one lakh = one hundred thousand) annually came into Banda's
possession. Baj Singh was appointed the governor of Sirhind. Ali Singh was made his deputy. Their chief
responsibility was to be on guard against the Mughal troops from Lahore and Jammu. Fateh Singh retained
charge of Samana. Ram Singh, brother of Baj singh became the Chief of Thanesar. Binod singh in addition to
his post of the revenue minister, was entrusted with the administration of Karnal 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 Sirhind. The Zamindari system was abolished in the whole province in
one stroke.

[edit]Banda advances towards Lahore

Having set up an administrative machinery, Banda advanced from Sirhind to Malerkotla in June, 1710. 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 whose faujdar had handed over Guru Gobind Singh's Mother
and His two younger Sons to Wazir Khan. Then he visited Kiratpur and Anandpur to pay homage to shrines.
He took Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar. Banda crossed the Beas into Majha, and fell upon Batala. After this, he
went on a pilgrimage to Dera Baba Nanak. At Amritsar, Banda made large offerings. He invited young men to
embrace Sikhism. Many from Majha joined the Khalsa. Banda marched towards Lahore. Sayyid Islam Khan,
the Governor, mounted guns on the walls of the city. Banda laid a siege, but was unable to scale the walls of
the fort. Lahore could have fallen, but Banda was in a hurry to look after his new government.

Only the Lahore Fort, owing to its fortifications, and housing the Moghul elite, could escape Banda Bahadur.
The rest of the city and suburbs were destroyed by the army of Banda Bahadur.

[edit]Banda versus muslims

Banda's rule, that drained the Mohgul empire, had a far-reaching impact on the history of the Punjab. With it
began the decay of Muslim and Mughal authority (eventually relegated to within the walls of their Delhi force
and bulk of their territory taken over by Ranjit Singh & Marathas, and later by British) and the demolition of the
feudal system of society it had created.

[edit]Muslims Mohgul King Bahadur Shah Issues Farman to Kill all Sikhs
Weakened and nominal Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah tried to counter Banda's increasing influence.
Bahadur Shah journeyed northwards from the Deccan to punish the Sikhs. Instructions were issued to the
governors of Delhi and Oudh and other Mughal officers to march towards the Punjab. Prohibitory laws against
Sikhs were passed. On December 10, 1710, Emperor Bahadur Shah I issued a general warrant for the
faujdars to "kill the worshippers of Nanak (the Sikhs), wherever they were to be found." (Nanak Prastan
ra Har ja kih bayaband baqatl rasanand)

[edit]Retreat and Regains by Banda

A massive Mughal force drove the Sikhs from Sirhind and other places to take shelter in the fort of Lohgarh in
the hilly region. Banda married the daughter of one of the hill chiefs. Further reinforcements arrived and sixty
thousand horse and foot soon surrounded Banda's hill retreat. For want of provisions, the Sikhs were reduced
to rigorous straits. When they could stand up to the numerically superior enemy no longer, they made
strategic nightly sallies to escape into the hills of Nahan, only to regroup later.

He again started his campaigns against the Mughals, coming down from the hills to the plains, but was
overwhelmed by the superior numbers of Mughal forces. Sikhs came out of their mountain haunts to recover
their lost territories and once again occupied Sadhaura and Lohgarh. Farrukhsiyar, who came to the throne of
Delhi in 1713, ordered against them the sternest campaign yet launched.

They were hounded out of the plains and their main column of about 4,000 men under Banda were subjected
to a terrible siege at the village of Gurdas-Nangal, about six kilometers from Gurdaspur. For eight months the
garrison resisted the siege of 100,000 Mughal troops under gruesome conditions (1 Sikh against 25 Muslims).
Towards the end, an unfortunate dispute arose between Banda and one of his most trusted advisers, Binod
Singh. This man along with Baj Singh and three others made up the war council that Banda was supposed to
consult in any difficult situation. Binod Singh advised the evacuation of the fortress, but vailant Banda wished
to fight Muslims out there. Binod Singh was senior in age, and when this difference of views flared up into an
open quarrel, Banda agreed to let Binod Singh take his men out of the Fortress. Binod Singh and his
supporters then charged out of the fortress and escaped.

Towards the end of November 1715, the remaining defenders were running out of ammunition and food. They
were trying to exist on boiled leaves and the bark of trees, and were gradually reduced to mere skeletons.
Then on December 17, 1715, Abdus Samad Khan, one of the Mughal commanders, shouted across the
separating moat, that he would not allow any killing by his men, if Banda opened the gate to the fortress.
When Banda ordered the gate be opened, the Mughals rushed in to spear or stab as many as three hundred
of the half-dead and helpless defenders. About seven hundred were captured alive and handcuffed in twos.
Banda had chains round his ankles and his wrists, and was then locked in an iron cage. The Mughals were
still afraid that he might escape and so they placed a guard on each side of the cage with swords drawn and
the cage was placed aloft an elephant, which led the procession, which paraded through Lahore, before
proceeding towards Delhi. Zakarya Khan, the son of the Lahore Governor, then ordered his men to lop off
more Sikh heads on the way. The prisoners were first taken to Lahore, and thence to Delhi. Thus Muslims
made a spectacle of killing sikhs and displaying their heads in most humiliating manner.