The post-Guru period in the Sikh history is marked by a long-drawn struggle against their persecution by the oppressive Mughal governments which prepared ground for the political ascendency of the Sikhs. Attempts were made at their total extirpation and prices were fixed on their heads. The most outstanding and yet enigmatic personality of this period undoubtedly has been Banda Singh Bahadur a Rajput by birth, an ascetic by choice and playful by temperament, but whose personality and vision underwent a complete metamorphosis at a mere glimpse of the Tenth Master to whom he submitted himself as a slave (Banda), received initiation in the Khalsa-fold and provided political leadership to the Khalsa during the most turbulent period of its history.
Banda Singh fascinated both Hindus and Sikhs equally during the period of renaissance that the Punjabis witnessed during the early period of twentieth century and books were brought out mostly in Urdu and Punjabi to project Banda as hero on either side. The first work on Banda by a Sikh, was Karam Singh’s biography of Banda Bahadur (1907) in Punjabi. Karam Singh accepted norms and constraints of the then emerging trends of modern historiography. Sohan Singh’s Life and Exploits of Banda Singh Bahadur (1915) is the first work on Banda in English. He too displays a high sense of historical enquiry and he ascertains all facts by crosschecking them with the available material and critically examines the events to arrive at the truth.
I am happy that Professor Prithipal Singh Kapur and Dr. Dharam Singh, both of the Department of Encyclopedia of Sikhism, voluntarily undertook to edit the work so as to make it available for younger generation of scholars so tat they could be able to appreciate the handicaps and limitations of their predecessors. They have added a prologue to the book giving, in brief, the historiography of Banda Singh Bahadur. Herein they have surveyed and closely scrutinized the entire literary corpus on Banda, bringing out in the process the distinct shade and tenor of each work. They have also appended valuable footnotes so as to highlight what later researches have brought out.
I appreciate their Endeavour which has made a very valuable book accessible to students and researchers in the field of Sikh history and that too in the year of the Tercentenary of the Khalsa.
In my case, it is my own family traditions that actuated me to take up my pen to write this piece of Sikh History. Sikhism in my family began with my great-grand father, Bhai Mansa Singh of Khem Karan, who having received amrit joined the Budha Dal, and afterwards accompanied Sardar Charat Singh to Gujranwala. He adhered to the great Sardar till his last breath. He had two sons, Bhais Amar Singh and Karam Singh. The former was killed while fighting under Ranjit Singh against the Chathas of Ram Nagar, and hissamadh exists down to this day at the Shahis Gang situated in the premises of Sardar Charat Singh’s samadh at Gujranwala. The latter, my great-grand father, was one of the greatest religious scholars of his time. He was as pious as he was learned and therefore, the Lion of the Punjab appointed him a religious tutor to his family. This duty was inherited by my grand father, Bhai Sant Singh, who was a soldier too. But after fighting in the battle of Chillianwala, he took to service as a Punjabi Teacher to the civil and military English officers at the Sialkot cantonment, all of whom have paid a very high tribute to his abilities and character. His younger brother, Mahatma Sujan Singh, was a boy of twelve when while writing with his own hand, the holy Adi Granth, he met a Shabad which caused him such an ecstasy that he stopped speaking, and ever since remained absorbed in mediation from which he never recovered the state of a worldly man.
His memory is still reversed as far as Peshawar like that of any true devotee of Wahiguru, My father had inherited all the spirit of a Sikh, but he was too circumstanced to be called a great religious man. But his sermons on Sikhism and loyalty to the British were unsurpassed in impressiveness.
Thus, I was but a child when I had drunk deep the whole Sikh history. The lives of the 10th Guru, Banda Bahadur, Akali Phula Singh and Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa were my favorite study when I was a mere student of IV Upper Primary. But the knowledge of history that I had inherited and acquired from my father enabled me to distinguish between fact and fiction. And it is with this knowledge that I have ventured to write this small work which, like a gardener presenting a bouquet to his benefactor, I beg to offer to the Guru-Panth in the hope that overlooking my faults in style and diction, my brethren will accept it as a thing worth their perusal.
In arranging facts, I have had to refer to almost all the great writers of the Sikh history, such as Cunningham, Malcolm, Wheeler, Latif, Santokh Singh, Rattan Singh, Gyan Singh, G.C. Narang, Kanhaya Lal, Madan Gopal, Kaur Chand, Karam Singh, Kartar Singh, Khazan Singh, Labh Singh, Daulat Rai, Jodh Singh and others, who owe their information to the Moslem writers of the time, such as Khafi Khan, Iradit Khan, Mohammad Kasim, Syar-ul-Mutakhrin and others.
My special thanks are due to Bhai Narain Singh Gyani (whom I have given the rights of publishing this book) who supplied me with all the books that I stood in need of, to Shriman Bhai Thakat Singh, the martyr in life of the Panth, Bhai Lal Singh Updeshak of Gujranwala, Bhai Ishar Singh (Manager, Khalsa Parcharak Vidyala, Tarn Taran) and Sant Swami Ramindra Singh Ji Virakt for their evincing interest in the work.
I don’t intend stopping my labours here, as I hope some important works on Sikh Religions, Sikh Martyrdom and Sikh History will follow this within short intervals one after the other, if Almighty so willed.
Do to haste, which ahs been observed in bringing out this book on the occasion of the 8th Sikh Educational conference, I have not been able to revise it thoroughly. Therefore, any omission in it will be supplied in the next edition.
Guru Hargobind, the Sixth Master, had shown the tyrant rulers of the time that if they continued oppressing the poor people, the followers of the great Nanak Dev, who had for over a century borne persecutions, they had been subjected to for no fault of theirs, with a calm patience and cool endurance characteristic of their nation, would take to sword in defense, in order to pay the devil in his own coin; and that the cold-blooded murder of the fifth Guru and his faithful followers must be duly punished. The brilliant exploits and bright achievements of this Warrior of God, abundantly explained the style and system in which the sacred Sikhism was now to be preached and protected. And Shahjahan, with all his resourcefulness and strength of an unopposed emperor, acknowledged in his heart of hearts what the Guru really was and with what definite object he had brandished his sword in open defiance of his rule, while the chronicle recorded that the saintly sect of the Sikhs had now changed their temper to award their enemies a tit for tat’.
Guru Hargobind’s declaration of war was an ultimatum to the Moghul, a final warning against injustice arid oppression, and his battles were a sort of samples of what the Sikhs could do, if they ever took to arms. But as in the words of a well-known Sanskrit adage ‘vinash kale vipraya budhi, i.e. when a person nears his ruin he loses all his wit and wisdom, so the Moghul tyrants would not listen to these warnings. Then things came to such a pass that Guru Tegh Bahadur fell another great martyr to the cause of religion and righteousness. Now the cup was full to the brim and necessitated his holy son and successor, Guru Gobind Singh, vindicating the ultimatum given by his gallant grandfather, Guru Hargobind.
Now, the tenth Guru appeared as warrior every inch, and converted his devoted followers from a peaceful community into a warlike people by dint of his divine magic wand, the holy amrit, which literally effected a metamorphic change in all of them at once. But he did this all as yet with the object of self-defense. Then the events of his vacating Anandpur, cajoled by a false promise solemnized by the oath of the Quran and the enemy’ falling upon him and his, in direct contravention and violation of the promise, with the indescribable trouble and torture to which the helpless Sikhs were subjected, must remain fresh in the peoples’ memory so long as history exists. Further, of the four darlings of the holy Guru, two sacrificed their dear lives when fighting against innumerable odds at Chamkaur while the other two were bricked up alive in a wall at Sirhind. His beloved five (Panj Piaras), forty muktas and thousands of devoted Sikhs shed their blood in many a battlefield, and their names shall ever remain writ large on the roll of immortality.
This all had taken place, and a reminiscence of it melted the hearts of even the stone-hearted. The pen trembled while recording and the tongue stammered when describing such heart-rendering episodes, but anarchy still knew no end. It seemed that Providence had willed that the tyrants should meet their deserts, and that mere self-defense would not do.
The time rolled on a little further, to show to the world how the Saviour inspired a harmless hermit to avenge all that the cruel rulers of the time had done so far. To be brief, the great part of punishing the murders of the sons of the tenth Guru and thousands of pious Sikhs and millions of innocent Hindus was reserved for the great Man who was passing his life in solitude at the bank of the Godawari, in the heart of the Deccan, unknown and unnoticed by any one. In the forthcoming chapters, we will describe how, with his immortal deeds of chivalry and matchless gallantry, caused his name, which would otherwise have ended in oblivion, to top those of all the makers of history.
When Lachhman Dev (the birth-name of Banda Bahadur) had left his parental hearth and home with he object of passing his life as a recluse, who knew that retirement was not the appropriate pursuit for the noble soul that abided in that frame of flesh and blood; aye, who might ever have thought that the youth, who had thrown away his arrows and bow, taking mercy on a beast of prey, would resume the same in defense of his fellow human beings? But as he was in wait of a ‘Puran Guru’, a perfect guide, so he waited for years, till his object of wait, he holy Guru Gobind Singh, approached to make him what he was meant and desired to be in this world by Him who can convert a veritable idiot into a scholar and vive-versa.
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