Banda Singh Bahadar – Bandai or Tat Khalsa?
Author: Prof. Inder Singh Ghagga
(Translated from Punjabi by Akashdeep Singh Aulakh)
Baba Banda Sigh Bahadar - The first king- knight of the Khalsa Kingdom and the great General of Sikh army shook the very base of the powerful oppressive rule of the Mughals in India with scarce resources and in a time when the Sikh power was scattered. This is the story of a brave knight of the world. The honorable braveness exhibited by this formerly unknown sage after getting inspiration from Guru Gobind Singh ji, is won only by a few. Dr. Gokul Chand writes, “The image of the complete humans which was prepared by Guru Nanak Dev ji, the appearance of which was prepared by Guru Gobind Singh ji, that complete human was – Banda Singh ji. Though the play of this life was written by Guru Gobind Singh ji, it was Banda Singh who played it with success on the stage of the world.”. Baba ji kept following the orders of Guru wholeheartedly till death. Even in the face of numerous hurdles, Banda Singh ji kept doing the sewa (selfless service) which was assigned to him by Satguru ji. He fought by shedding all fears of death; eventually got severed into pieces and arose to the heights of knighthood.
Many writers have written about Baba ji. There is no doubt that the non-Sikh writers were prejudiced, but even some Sikh historians can be seen under the wrong influence of these national and international non-Sikh writers. As a result, numerous allegations have been put on Baba Banda Singh ji. Our historians have not given the due respect which Baba Banda Singh ji rightly deserved. Yours truly has studied as many books as were available on Banda Singh Bahadar in the market and tried to contemplate from the angle of the principles of our Gurus. Whatever I could understand about Baba Banda ji from this study, I am trying to share that new viewpoint with the readers.
All the writers write the same (with very few differences) about the initial life of Banda Singh ji and his meeting with Guru Gobind Singh ji. There is also no serious disagreement between historians on the splendid victories, amazing tricks of war, ability to fight and win with the help of just a few Sikhs and very few resources and destroying of biggest Empires, being able to live undefeated for 8 years, punishments to the people who committed atrocities against human kind and other such things associated with Banda Singh Bahadar.
The mean allegations that have been put on the pure personality of Baba ji are mostly the ones which were advertised heavily by the then Mughal rulers of India. The reality is that, there is not a single account of Banda Singh ji writing anything which proves those allegations. Actually, the rulers were shocked and baffled with the continuous wins of Banda Singh ji. The king Bahadur Shah himself kept vigil on his forces which were fighting Banda Singh ji. He was getting depressed by seeing the bad conditions and the rising of the Sikhs. At the same time the riots between the Shia muslims and Sunni muslims broke out in Lahore. Such situations made Bahadur Shah so much tensed that he started giving hilarious order like – “Kill all the dogs in the city of Lahore. Either catch and imprison or kill all the sages and beggars”. In the same insane condition, he died in Lahore on 27th November 1712.
There was big fight for the throne between the 4 sons of Bahadur Shah after his death. Eventually, Jahandar Khan killed his 3 brothers and sat on throne. Very soon, Farukhshayar killed Jahandar Khan and acquired the throne; he was alive till 1719. Farukhshayyar plunged the whole government machinery to kill and finish the Sikhs. All the forces from Delhi till Multan were ordered to capture Baba Banda Singh ji dead or alive. All together, these forces were more than a lakh (100 thousand). For 8 long months, these forces sat surrounding the Gurdas Nangal fortress from where Baba Banda Singh ji was fighting back strongly. These reckless soldiers destroyed all the villages in a radius of about 50 miles around the fortress, unleashed terror by looting and destroying the crops by making the horses and mules eat them and kept dishonoring women. Even then it was not easy to supply resources to this big force (Mughal force) for a long period. During this time, garbage piled up around the camps and disease spread. The soldiers started dying with disease one after another. The Generals of the force lost hope after seeing this intense situation. On the other hand, Baba Banda Singh Bahadar was fighting fearlessly even though he had very scarce resources inside the fortress. Abdushmad Khan sent all the reports to Farukhshayyar in Delhi who got worried after reading the letter. He understood that in a direct fight like this one, he will not be able to gain complete victory over the Sikhs.
Mata Sundri ji was living in Delhi. Mcauliffe and Khajan Singh have written that Farukhshayyar approached Mata ji and told, “Banda Singh has punished all the people who committed atrocities against the Gurus and other Sikhs. He should stop attacking now”. Mata ji was under the vigils of government at that time. Correct information could not have possibly reached her as she was not allowed to go out of Delhi for the rest of her life. The king also got some Sikhs onto his side. After getting pressurized by all these people, Mata ji wrote (supposedly) a letter to Banda Singh ji asking him to stop the war. Realizing the situation Banda Singh ji did not stop the war against the cruel rulers as he considered it to be a conspiracy of the rulers. Mata Sundri ji again sent one more letter (under the pressure of the rulers) asking the Sikhs to withdraw support from Banda Singh ji. It is also possible that all these letters were faked and could have been written by the Mughals using the name of the Mata Sunder ji. Whatever be the reality, Farukhshayyar succeeded in dividing the Sikhs utilizing Mata Sundri ji. The Sikhs favoring the rulers imposed the following allegations on Banda Singh ji and Mata Sundri ji issues Hukumnama.
- Banda Singh ji went against the orders of Guru Gobind Singh ji and started following his own will.
- He violated the orders of Guru Gobind Singh ji of staying celibate by getting married.
- He has started “Charan Pahul” instead of “Khandey di pahul”.
- He has started people to say “Fateh Darshan” instead of “Waheguru ji ki fateh”
- He has starting calling the Sikhs of the Guru as “Bandai Sikh”
- He has started wearing royal attire and starting living with leisure.
- He has become egoist and considers Sikhs as lowly.
- Khalsa will not interfere in the operations of the Government and the territories owned by the government.
- Tat Khalsa will not help Banda Singh in any way.
- The Tat Khalsa will help the government armies if need arises.
- The government will not commit any atrocities on the Hindus of Punjab nor will do injustice to them.
- Tenth master or any other Guru has never stopped any Sikh from getting married. Sikhism is a faith where family life is considered important. The Sikh gurus were themselves married.
- Banda Singh ji did not start any new faith in his name. To find the proof of this fact, one can see the stamps and coins that he made.
- He did not start any “Charan Pahul” and there is no proof of him asking to say “Fateh Darshan”
- He never wrote or called any Sikh a Bandai Sikh, there is no proof to prove this allegation.
- Satguru ji did not stop anybody from wearing royal or good clothes or to have good amenities.
- He did not consider any Sikh as lowly. This allegation is totally baseless and without proof.
- Why would the Khalsa not interfere with the affairs of the Mughal Kingdom? ….when the rulers are tyrants and from outside India? Did not the Sikh Misls later fight and snatch their homeland from the cruel rulers to establish the Sikh empire?
- Now pay attention to the other great deed of so called Tat Khalsa. According to the agreement, the Tat Khalsa will not help their brothers who are in deep trouble and are fighting from 8 continuous months after being confined to the fortress. This big negligence??
- On the other hand, the agreement says that Tat Khalsa will help the government ….for what? ...to kill their own brothers?
- In returns, this Tat Khalsa gets 5000 rupees per annum, control of Darbar Sahib, 500 recruitments in army etc. in prize from the government.
The creator of “Searul Mukhtaheen” and witness of the fierce battle between Banda Singh Bahadar and these armies at Kot Mirzajan writes the account of the war as, “Banda did not give up in the battle field and was surprising everyone. He fought with such bravery in the first clash that the Mughal forces were about to loose and get back but somehow Banda had to retreat.” Baba ji retreated from one post to the other reaching the Gurdas Nangal fortress. Contemporary writer Khafi Khan writes, “ The kafirs (used here for Sikhs) fought so ferociously that they took the Islami (Muslim) army near defeat. These people have shown endless bravery every now and then”. After suffering severe casualties, the royal army started using the tactics of blockage rather then fighting face to face. (Please keep in mind that it was considered lowly behavior to not to fight face to face during older times). The royal army cut and blocked all the lines of water, fodder and other resources to the fortress. Slowly the resources which were available inside the fortress started finishing up. The situation inside the fortress became so bad that the Sikh soldier had to kill their own horses and eat them. Further, there was no wood to cook the meat so they had to eat it raw. A lot of the soldiers inside the fortress got sick by eating raw meat. Even under these horrible situations the Sikhs kept fighting for 8 months. After serious consideration, the soldiers inside the fortress chose to die fighting instead of dying with hunger or surrendering to the Mughal forces. The Sikh soldiers were extremely feeble due to prolonged malnutrition and disease, even then once ordered by Baba Banda Singh ji they fell upon the Mughal forces like hawks. Each Sikh soldier killed several Mughal soldiers before dying. Due to weakness and disease they started getting exhausted soon and started falling on ground. Now Baba Banda Singh ji alone were left behind to fight. Making a semi-circle of about 2 miles the heavy royal force was fighting with him. Where ever he attacked raising slogans, the royal soldiers ran for their lives. Banda Singh was unleashing his sword on the enemy with the swiftness of lightening. Various knights stepped ahead to capture him alive but within the flash of eye he smashed them and brought them down on the ground. In the entire day, fighting with tireless and unique bravery Baba ji killed 59 knights of the royal army. When Baba ji got extremely tired and his weapons started giving up one by one, the royal army further tightened the circle around him. In these conditions, a big group of soldiers attacked Baba ji at once, got hold of him, chained and confined him in a cage. Baba Banda Singh ji never gave up, he did not ask for forgiveness or beg for life. The witness Kamar Khan writes, “This success (of Mughal armies) is just because of the wonder of God, not due to any wisdom or bravery. Everybody knows that late king Bahadur Shah along with his 4 sons and numerous army generals had been trying to suppress this uprising but could not succeed to do so. It has now been possible to defeat these kafirs (used here for Sikhs) just because of hunger and disease.”
Only a few Sikhs could be captured alive from the battle of Gurdaas Nangal. Just to prove their victory bigger, the royal forces captured innocent Sikhs from here and there and increased the numbers to 740 by such means. The heads of 3000 Sikhs were severed and hung on spear heads. A good number of readers might already be familiar with this incident. Per day 100 Sikhs were martyred in Delhi and not even a single from them begged for the mercy of life. All of them accepted the death like a brave man. In the end, on 9 June 1716, Baba Banda Singh ji were severed into pieces after being subjected to intolerable and inexplicable tortures. That gursikh (“Sikh of the Guru”, used here for Banda Singh) who was decorated by Guru ji, the first General of Khalsa, uncrowned king, unique knight did not accept submission by getting trapped into lust of anything. Rather, remaining a patient Sikh of the Guru and establishing new records of bravery he sacrificed his life, thereby adding his name to the list of distinguishedmartyrs forever.
One gets shocked and astonished after knowing about the material and weapons which the attacking army recovered from the fortress of Gurdaas Nangal after getting its control. It’s inspiring to know that despite having simple weapons and very few resources Banda Singh and his army kept giving formidable resistance in the battle to the biggest ruling power of Asia for 8 months. The materials recovered from the fortress were as follows:-
Swords – 1000
Shields – 278
Quivers – 173
Rifles – 180
Waist daggers – 114
Small swords – 217
Gold coins – 23
Cash – a little more than 600 Rupees, and some gold jewelry
(Reference – Irvine, William, “Later Mughals”, p-351)
Readers should specially note the fact that not a single person from these so called Tat Khalsa are found anywhere during this difficult and dangerous time. Alas! the injustice of history, those who sacrificed their lives smiling have been labeled “Bandai Khalsa” and those who betrayed during this great battle, those who hided in their houses, who got jagirs (land) from the Mughal government, those who have sold away their honor and self respect started blowing their own trumpets of being “Tat Khalsa”. Distinguished historian Dr. Ganda Singh writes about Banda Singh – “Among all the Indian knights born in the 18th century, Banda Singh Bahadar is unique. Though centuries have passed since his martyrdom, he still remains a light-house for his co-religion brothers and is the source of inspiration of leadership and bravery”
Now, some thoughts related to the myth that Ganga Ram Brahmin’s (the infamous Gangu) son Raj Kaul convinced Banda Singh Bahadar to surrender. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s ancestor Raj Kaul was nobody else but the son of the cook Gangu who served in Guru Gobind Singh ji’s kitchen for 20 years and later betrayed them by getting Mother Gujri ji and 2 younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh ji captivated by the Mughals. The Mughal (Vajeer Khan) not only retracted from giving the promised reward to Gangu but also took away Mother Gujri ji’s property from his possession. This same Gangu’s son Raj Kaul ran away to Kashmir in fear of the retaliation of the Sikhs. Since he was educated he was working on a government job. When the later Mughal, Farukhshayar came to know of the favor that Gangu did to the Mughals, he found out his family (Raj Kaul) and asked them to come back to Delhi. Farukhshayar gifted them good land near Nehar (canal) as well as big house to live along with a new job to Raj Kaul in his court. Due to the fact that this family was living on the banks of a Nehar (canal) their last name got to be called as “Kaul Nehru” (Nehru means ‘pertaining to’ or ‘of the Nehar’ ie. Canal). With time, “Kaul” was also removed from the last name and the last name eventually became “Nehru”. Note that there is no other family in whole India with the sub-caste/last-name “Nehru” in the Brahmins (priest class). This family has changed its last name out of fear of the Sikhs and ostracism by the world. Also, remember that Banda Singh Bahadar could have never listened to a person like Raj Kaul; the myth of his surrendering after listening to Raj Kaul is totally baseless.
Some of the facts mentioned in the previous paragraph have even been accepted by Jawahar Lal Nehru (Autobiography – 1948, p-1). Historian M. Gopal, who is son of former president of India Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, has given good information about “Nehru” family. He writes that - From generation to generation, the fate of the Nehru family has been due to the Muslim rulers. This family is one of those families which, being in power and having the authority, have used the situations and opportunities for their own benefits.
My humble request to writers is - please analyze and think about all aspects of a reference source before coming up with your writings based on it. Where on one hand evil historians have done enormous harm to Sikh history with their baseless writings, the historian who seem to be very Sikh have done no less harm. The list of these so called historians both new and old is long. Let’s not tarnish our bright history, let’s not plunge the diamonds of our community into dust…………