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Banda Singh Bahadur - A Shrewd Strategist And Brilliant Tactician

Discussion in 'Sikh Personalities' started by Aman Singh, Apr 16, 2010.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    By Lt.Gen.Kartar Singh Gill, PVSM (Retd.)


    1. We are fast approaching the 300th Anniversary of Banda Bahadur,s victory over Nawab Wazir Khan, the Governor of Sirhind and the Zalam who had ruthlessly bricked alive the two younger Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. This brings back memories of a brave Sikh Bairagi turned soldier who, for seven years from 1709 to 1716, established the rule of the Khalsa ousting Mughal rule in Punjab.

    2. Who was this valiant Sikh who could dare to defeat the might of the Mughals who possessed a well trained standing army of horsemen and foot soldiers equipped with the latest weaponry of that period? Historians depict him as a converted Sikh from a Bairagi militant Sadhu who was bestowed with strength and motivation by the will of Guru Gobind Singh. Here was a converted Sikh who marched with the Guru’s Mission 1600 Miles with 25 companions, not to conquer, but to liberate the peasantry from the crushing rule of Mughal infidels. All that he was armed with were the Guru’s five arrows, a Nishan Sahib (flag) and a Nagara (war drum) - as symbols of authority from the Tenth Guru. In today’s world this sounds likes a fairy tale difficult to believe! What then made Banda to accept this near impossible task?

    3. To find answers to this riddle we must remember Madho Das's background. He was born in the hills of Jammu and had a past as a famous Hunter. In those days, without modern weapons, hunting was an art learnt by intensive practical training and stealthily tracking of wild animals. This required years of hard work, physical and mental alertness and a wily instinct to conquer. Madho Das was a born hunter turned Sadhu due to a shock killing of a pregnant female deer. Guru Gobind Singh Ji recognized these traits. When he inspired this Bairagi to now hunt the cruel mughals and vanquish them for the sins they were committing on mankind in general, and particularly on the Sikhs of Punjab.

    4. Strategy in simple language is the high level planning prior to a campaign and tactics its implementation. Banda’s 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 Processâ€, bite into the mighty Mughal administrative centers one by one. This process was the only way to achieve the Guru’s 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 processâ€. One by one the Mughal bastions, SAMANA, GHURAM, THASKA, MUSTAFBAD and SADHAURA were captured, until he reached the outskirts of SIRHIND
    o His main target was to revenge the ruthless torture and killing of the brave and innocent SAHIBZADAS.

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

    6. SAMANA was strongly fortified. It had a wall all around, every Haveli was a fortress and the Mughal force was well armed and had deployed guns for the towns defence. Banda Bahadurs plan on 26 Nov 1709 was to lie up at a distance the previous day thus lulling the defenders into a feigned lack of will and intent to attack. That night the Sikh force did a brilliant rapid approach from some miles, entered the town from all directions before the gates could be closed and after negligible opposition totally captured and sacked SAMANA by the next day’s nightfall. Thus the three main principles of war of surprise, Mobility and Economy of Force (he took least causalities) were applied with brilliance.

    7. Sirhind, the Principal Town of SE Punjab was Banda Bahadars goal. To all Sikhs it represented the cruelty of its Governor, Wazir Khan had to render an account for this bestial act. James Brown, the British Historian described it as most barbarous and outrageousâ€. No wonder then that the Sikhs were thirsting for his blood. Wazir Khan sent a strong force under Sher Mohammed Khan of Malerkotla towards ROPAR to prevent a large force of Sikhs from Doaba and Majha joining Banda’s main force moving from BANUR. After a very fierce battle the valiant Sikhs prevailed. It was the ****** hand to hand battle on the battlefield, in which Sikhs dominated, which won the day. Thus Banda succeeded in concentrating his force for the final battle.
    8. It is said that like Napolean, Banda Bahadar 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 break through. At Chappar Chiri the Mughals were far superior in numbers, Weapons and Guns. Banda’s 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 Chiriâs 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 then as far as SIRHIND. Wazir Khan fell from his horse and was captured aliveâ€. The Mughal army was completly 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.

    9. Concentration of Force. Banda Bahadur did not attack Wazir Khans 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.
    10. Flexibility. 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 causalities 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.


    Courtesy: Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh

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