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Banda Singh Bahadur

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by Neutral Singh, Jun 16, 2004.

  1. Neutral Singh

    Neutral Singh
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    By Pal Singh Purewal

    Banda Singh Bahadur in the North, and Shivaji in the South, both thwarted the Mughal might and fought for the establishment of independent states in their respective regions ? they both fought for territorial gains. But, whereas the exploits of Shivaji have been highlighted, so much so that even the centenary of his ascension to gaddi has been celebrated on national level, Banda Singh Bahadur has been completely ignored by his countrymen. Let us carry,out a comparative study of the two great men of their times.

    Banda Singh Bahadur, who look over the leadership of the Sikhs after the death of Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth Guru of the Sikhs), was a thin man of medium height, with brownish hair. He had a strong physique and shining eyes. He was intelligent, fearless and active from his very childhood. He was a man of such an impressive personality that even the worst of his enemies like Imad-ud-Daula Muhammad Amir Khan praised him for "so much of acuteness in his features and so much of nobility in his conduct." He was a good marksman and an expert rider; proficient in archery and in the weilding of sword. He became proficient in whatever profession he adopted; he was a keen shikari-, as a bairagi he was expert in mesmerism, knew the medicinal uses of various plants; he was a jadoogar, feared by the people, and good at fighting ? those days even bairagis were good fighters. On embracing Sikhism, he became a staunch baptised follower of the Tenth Guru and followed the teachings of the Guru in theory and practice. He lived a pure and simple life.

    Under him, the number of Sikhs increased; he even baptised a number of Muslims and brought them into the new faith. Nawab Aminu-ud-Daula writes in the third ruqa of his Dastur-ul-lnsha Ruqat-i-Amin-ud-Daula thus:

    "Many Hindus and Musalmans adopted their faith and rituals. And their Chief (Banda Singh) captivated the hearts of Musalmans; whosoever came in contact with him, he addressed him with the title of Singh. Accordingly, Dindar Khan, a powerful ruler of the neighbourhood, was named Dindar Singh, and Mir Nasir-ud-din, a news-writer of Sirhind, became Mir Nasir Singh. In the same way, a large number of Musalmans abandoned Islam and adopted the misguided path of Sikhism.

    Under Banda Singh, the Sikhs became more organised, more formidable and numerous; they also gained plenty of experience in fighting. Within three or four months, writes Khafi Khan, he collected around him from four to five thousand ponyriders and seven to eight thousand motley footmen. This number increased daily till it reached the figure of eighteen to nineteen thousand men under arms. He taught them bow to fight and conquer. Like Xanthippes, Banda Singh Bahadur as "one man and one brain laid low the forces that had seemed invincible", and restored confidence in his troops. The result was that territory between Lahore and Panipat lay practically prostrate under his feet. He fought against a number of Mughal faujdars a/s and humbled them all.

    Although he had to fight against the Mughals for whom of course, he was "an unbeliever", "a dog", "an imposter" and "a rebel of the government", he was not a religious fanatic. He never converted the fighting into a religious war. He had proclaimed that "we do not oppose Muslims and we do not oppose Islam. We only oppose tyranny, and we only oppose usurpation of the political power which belongs to the people and not to privileged individuals or to Mghals."

    As a result of his egalitarian policy, both in theory and practice, Banda Singh had about five thousand Muslims in his army; he looked after them, fixed their wages and allowances, and permitted them to read khutba and namaz. They were free to say their prayers in their own fashion. Testifying this, a royal news-writer, reported to Aurangzeb, on 28th April, 1 1711 as under:

    "The wretched Nanak-worshipper has his camp in the town of Kalainpur upto the 19th instant. During the period he has promised and proclaimed: 1 do not oppress the Muslims'. Accordingly, for any Muslim who approached him, he fixes a daily allowance and wages and looks after him. He has permitted them to read khutba and namaz. As such, five thousand Muslims have gathered around him. Having entered into his friendship, they are free to shout their call and say prayers in the army of the wretched Sikhs."

    This speaks for Banda Singh's liberal-mindedness; and that too in spite of the fact that the Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah, who had ascended the Delhi throne with the help of the Sikhs, had on 10th December, 1710, issued an Imperial Ordinance to the effect that

    "Every Sikh, wherever he is found, wherever he is seen, should be put to death without any hesitation and without any further thought."

    To create awe and fear in the minds of the Mughal authorities, Banda Singh did devastate their towns and cities, such as Samana and Sirhind; he did loot the nobles' property, but then distributed it all among his followers, teeping nothing for himself. He was a selfless servant of the Panth. He accumulated no riches and built no palace for himself. Whatever territory he captured was in the name of the Khalsa fraternity and was not considered to be his personal domain. Although a terror for the Mughal administration and no Mughal Commander dared face him, for ordinary people he was a Kalki Avtar or Mehdi.

    It is strange that when his influence was felt upto Panipat, he did not try to go for Delhi. Most probably he was not strong enough for such a venture, nor did he want the wrath of the whole of the Mughal Empire to fall upon him.

    He was a man of valour, cool in the face of death, a strong believe in his own faith. At the time of his execution, when given a choice betweer Islam and death, he opted for the latter.

    He was the champion of the downtrodden, irrespective of whether they were Sikhs, Muslims or Hindus. He abolished landlordism and in the words of Prof. Anil Chandra Bannerjee, gave "a socio-economic direction. This also resulted in many more becoming Sikhs. He never harmed a woman or a child.

    As compared to the Mughal hordes, his force was never superior to them numerically, nor did it have the munitions of war in plenty. Where the Mughal forces were armed with zamburaks, raihkalas, and light and heavy guns, the Sikhs had spears, swords, ramjange, and so on. Surprisingly, with such a small quantity of munitions and so small a number of men, the Sikhs defied such a mighty empire for so long! They were hardy, had no supply problems, and most important, they had a cause to fight for; being members of a new organisation they fought with great zeal. They were fearless and possessed offensive spirit as compared to the soft and easy-going Mughal soldiers.

    Banda Singh Bahadur employed guerilla type of warfare, called in Punjabi dhai phatt (two and a half strokes). So long as he followed these tactics, he was successful. But when besieged in the Nangalgarhi (near Gurdaspur), he became static, lost mobility, and was deprived of reinforcements and supplies. Under the circumstances he had to surrender.

    The terrain and the circumstances, compared to the Marathas under Shivaji in the South, were not favourable to Banda Singh. "The Marathas were", writes Tara Chand, "a compact people; geography favoured them, protecting them from easy reach of the Bahamani or the Mughal rulers." The ghats offered them safe retreats, and also provided them with vantage points for the construction of forts, which, in turn, dominated the surrounding areas' The western ghats formed a screen in front of Konkan, an area which served the Marathas as an "excellent base" for organising their operations.

    "The ghats", writes O.N. Sarkar, "with their countless forts and intricate I pathways, were the most suitable place for launching expeditions from, being equally convenient for surprising the Mughals and evading their strong outposts." Because of the terrain being mountainous, and with numerous naturally strong forts and the Mughals with insufficient troops unable to besiege all of them, the country, unlike the Indo-Gangetic plains, "could not ~l be conquered and annexed by one cavalry dash or even one year's campaign."'

    The Marathas had an opening towards the sea running along the _,f western ghats. This provided them with mobility and also an opening to contact foreign powers. As such, they bad once come to "an understanding with their Portuguese neighbours for mutual aid against the Mughala."" The Portuguese even provided safe refuge to the wives and children of the Marathas, when the enemy descended into the eastern belt of Konkan. No such advantages were available to Banda Singh.

    The maltreatment at the hands of Aurangzeb had antagonised both the Bijapore and Golcunda rulers; this helped Shivaji to receive military aid from both the States. Also, the Mughal engagement with these states gave Shivaji a free hand for the period. Another advantage Shivaji had was in the population of the area being predominantly Hindu, with one third of it being Maharashtrian. Whereas in the Punjab, the Muslims were in a majority. Punjab being a link between Delhi and Central Asia from where fresh blood flowed into India, was well garrisoned by the Mughals. The ghats being far off did not interfere with the Mughals' lines of communication. And as for the Hindus in the Punjab, Banda Singh received no help from them. During Banda Singh's times, no Rajput or Dogra arose against the Mughals. On the contrary, they supported the Mughals in subduing Banda Singh and the Sikhs.

    In spite of the hardships, Banda Singh Bahadur neither offered himself for service under Aurangzeb, nor did he give any consideration to the terms offered to him. On the other hand, and it is a historical fact that Shivaji has offered his services to the Mughal Emperor, e.g., in 1657 when Aurangzeb was engaged in the war with Bijapore, "Shivaji entered into correspondence with him, and professed himself a devoted servant of Delhi."" Again, when Aurangzeb succeeded in obtaining the Delhi throne, Shivaji " sent an envoy to Delhi lo express his deep regret for what had occured and his attachment to the throne.'" In 1666, Shivaji "joined the Imperial army with 2,000 horsemen and 8,000 foot, and marched against Bijapur"'S There was also a time, when Shivaji sought and accepted the terms offered to him by Aurangzeb through Raja Jai Singh, with whom, when in difficulty, Shivaji had pleaded thus:

    "By reason of my late unwise and disloyal acts, I have not the face to wait on the Emperor; I shall depute my son to be His Majesty's servant and slave, and he will be created a Commander of five thousand with a suitable jagir... As for me sinner, exempt me from holding any mansab or serving in the Mughal army. But whenever in your wars in the Deccan, am I given any military duty, I shall promptly perform it."'6

    Bribe or any other kind of enticement had no effect on Banda Singh, whereas the Marathas had surrendered most of their forts through bribery by the Mughal.

    Banda Singh Bahadur never acted treacherously against the enemies, whereas Shvaji's conquests, writes Sarkar, were "the result of deliberate murder and organised treachery." For example, Shivaji had Chandra Rao More and his brother Surya Rao lulled by Raghunath Ballah Korde, who had gone to Javli to negotiate engagement of Rao's daughter with Shivaji (October, 1655). According to some authorities, Shivaji had once told Raghunath Ballah Korde that "unless Chandra Rao More is killed, kingdom cannot be gained.''8 Shivaji kept many wives and a number concubines too. This cannot be said of Banda Singh.

    Banda Singh Bahadur established the first independent sovereign state with its own coins and seal. Although short-lived, he put the Sikhs on the path to subsequently establish their rule. The immediate effect, however, ' that the Mughal might did not remain unchallenged; the bogey of its formidableness was shattered by both the Marathas and the Sikhs.


    REFERENCES

    1. The Punjab Past and Present, October 1975, p. 466
    2. Khafi Khan, Muntakhab-ul-Lubab, reproduced in The History of India Elliot and Dowson, Vol. VII, p. 414
    3. Xanthippes was a Sparatan General who in a year's service with Carthag had done wonders ? destroyed a Roman Army and captured Regulu (The Ancient World, T.R. Glover, p. 164).
    4. Ruqaat-i-Amin-ud-Daula, Dastur-ul-lnsha, Imperial Daily Diarie, quoted by Kapur Singh (The Sikh Review, July 1975).
    5. Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mualla, reproduced in The Punjab Past and Present, October 1970, p. 228
    6. The Sikh Review, April 1972
    7. Tara Chand, History of the Freedom Movement in India, p. 102
    8. "The whole of the ghats and neighbouring mountains often terminal towards the top in a wall of smooth rock, the highest points of which, as well as detached portions in insulated hills, form natural fortresses, where the only labour required is to gel access to the level space, which generally: lies on the summit. Various princes at different times have cut flights steps or winding roads up the rock, fortified the entrance with a succ sion of gateways, and erected towers to command the approaches: and thus studded the whole of the region about the ghats and their branches with forts." (Elphinstone's History, 6th ed., p. 615; Duff, i, 7; Bombay Gazetteer, xviii, Part I, pp. xix, and 16)
    9. J.N. Sarkar, Aurangzeb, Vol. V, p. 153
    10. J.N. Sarkar, Shivaji and His Times, p. 5; "It is undeniable he hath taken and maintained against the Moghuls sixty odd strong lulls. But the cause is, the Mughals are unacquainted with, and their bodies unfit for such barren and uneasy place; so that they rather chose to desert than defend them, whereby it is sufficiently evident Sevaji is unable in the plain to do anything but rob, spoil, and return with all the speed imaginable: And on that account, Aurangzeb calls him his 'Mountam-Raf with which the greatest system of Monarchy in the world, though continued by an uninterrupted descent of Imperial Ancestry, have ever been infested, finding it more hard to fight with mountains than men." )Fryer, p. 171, quoted in The Travels by Barnier, p. 198, fn. 1).
    11. J.N.Sarkar, Aurangzeb,V,144
    12. 'This was in all likelihood their proportionate population in the past also".
    (Tara Chand, p. 102).
    13. J.C. Marshman, The History of India, Vol. I, p. 154
    14. Ibid., p. 155
    15. Ibid., pp. 160-166
    16. J.N. Sarkar, Shivaji and His Times, p. 124; Shivaji's brother VyankoJi supported the Mughals. (Ibid., 129)
    17. Ibid., 43; J.N. Sarkar,Aurangzeb, IV, p. 30
    18. J.N. Sarkar, Shivaji and His Times, p. 42
     
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  3. Neutral Singh

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    a few texts from DR JS Grewal and Irfan Habib's book - Sikh History From Persian Sources

    About Bandha Bahadhur His Conquests and Followers

    pg 135 - Territory Seized


    quote:
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    So Saharanpur, Buriya, Sadhaura, Chhat, Ambala, Shahabad, Thanesar, Sahrind, Pail, Rupar, Bahlolpur, Macchiwara, Ludhiana etc., the details of which places would be cumbersome, were battered by those ill-famed hosts. All territory from Thanesar to the bank of the river Sutlej, excepting the territory of Lakhi jungle, came at one stroke under the control of those cruel, unjust people. Half the the chakla of Saharanpur was also annexed to the dominions of the arrogant ignoranmous. In the country of Panjab too, many village came into the hands of these error-smitten Sikh
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It would appear the commentary is written with some considerable sour grapes, as so much fertile land came under Sikh control.
     
  4. Neutral Singh

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    Pg 143 - Follower of The Bandha

    quote:

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    A large number of persons belonging to the class of sweepers and tanners, and the community of banjaras and other base of lowly castes, assembled around him and became his disciple. The persons gace him the title of "Fat'h Shah"

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    It seems we owe much to our existence as Sikhs to classes that are ostricised. Remember these are the words from impartial people who were around at the time.
     
  5. Neutral Singh

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    pg 140 - Martyrdom of Bandha and His Companions


    quote:

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    On this day (of their arrival) I went to the Salt Market to wirness the event and accompanied them from there to the Imperial Fort. Of the people of the city there were few who not come to see the humbling of these rebels. Large crowds gathered in every lane and market such as had seldom appeared before. The Muslims were in a happy and festive mood. Yet many of those ill-fated ones [the Sikhs], who had come as prisoners in this condition, insisted on standing fast by their villany. There was no sign of humility and submission on their faces. Rather most of them, riding on the camels backs, kept singing and reciting melodious verses. If anyone in the lanes and bazar reminded them of the cruelties they had committed, which brought them to this condition, they gave immediate and manly retorts, and attributed their capture and humiliations tp the doings of fate. If anyone told them that they would now be executed, they replied, "Let them kill us! We do not fear death. Had we feared it, how could we have fought so many battles with you? We have fallen in your hands only because of hunger and lack provisions; otherwise, you would have come to know of our bravery far more than has been witnessed till now"

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    This shows true defiance in the face of death, abd no shirking, despite the odds. Truly inspiring!
     
  6. Neutral Singh

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    courtousey of "Sikh History From Persian Sources"

    pg 163-2 - Bandha Bahadhurs Followers

    quote:
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    he (Bandha) in a very short time completed the building of a stone fort of great strength at the foot of the Siwalik Hills near Shahdaura (Sadhaura), of which he had laid the foundations. He made the fort his seat, and sent his officials to administer every city and village far and near.
    Strange it was how through God decreed fate, the courage and bravery of the inhabitants of those places had departed. If a lowly sweeper or cobbler (chamar), more impure than whom there is no caste (qaum) in Hindustan, went to attend on that rebel, he would be appointed to govern his own town and would return with an order (sanad) of office of government in his hand. The moment he stepped into the territory, or town, or village, all the gentry and notables went out to recieve him, and after his alightining at his house, stood with folded hands before him. Since that man of low nature would have information about the real condition of all houses, what unprecedented impositions did they not inflict on the better-places persons of that place and what cruelty did they not invent! No Hindu or Muslim could have the power to see, or hear of, such cruelty. He (the official sent by Banda) would demand whatever precious goods were in anyone's house and deposit it in the ill-destined treasury of the Guru. No person could oppose his orders. Such is the power of Almighty that in the twinkling of an eye He can put such a lowly person in authority over a whole world of the high-born in such a manner that so many thousands of persons who had displayed bravery in so many manly contests, became help, became helpless and lost even the courage to speak in front of that single man
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    Some venom in the writers thoughts towards these sparrows that challenged the hawks! Robbing the rich to give to the poor.
     

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