06 August, 2016

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur – A Perennial Source of Inspiration

The nation is commemorating 300th year of the martyrdom of the great Sikh warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. There is a famous saying that those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the history, are condemned to repeat it. In this context, for the present generation, there is lot to learn from the life of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. No doubt, his exemplary feats are going to inspire the youngsters extensively and failure of the then society to consolidate on the gains made by the great warrior will spur today’s generation to remain united in its response to the challenges posed by the terrorist ideologies.

Baba Banda Singh was born as Lachhman Dev on 27th October 1670 in Rajauri, in present Jammu & Kashmir, in a peasant Rajput family. It is said that once on a hunting mission, he killed a doe that was pregnant with two cubs; the incident filled him with so much remorse that he renounced the family life, became a Bairagi (Sanyasi) and set out for a search of inner peace.

He had become Madhav Das from Lachhman Dev and established a hermitage in Nanded town on the banks of river Godavari in Maharashtra. Guru Gobind Singh too was staying in the same town at that time. There are various accounts of the meeting between the two, but one thing which clearly emerged out was: Madhav Das became a devout disciple of Guru Gobind Singh and submitted himself as his “Banda” to the Guru. Then onwards Madhav Das Bairagi was known as Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.

The tyrannical rule of the Mughals and the atrocities committed by their generals on Guru Gobind Singh’s family had shaken the Baba deep from within. With blessings from the great Guru and a council of five Sikhs, he set out on the journey to North India where he intended to organise the oppressed people against the Mughals.

The distance of Hissar from Nanded is approximately 1600 kilometres which should have been finished in 2 to 3 months time but it took him more than a year because the news of him coming to the north had reached Bahadur Shah’s durbar and he had issued instructions to his chieftains and generals to arrest or kill him.

He had to hide at many places in order to deceive the Mughal forces and eventually he reached Hissar and started bringing the Sikhs of the Guru under one umbrella. His plans were clear; he wanted to organise people who were under the constant threat of the brute forces of the Mughals and their Sardars.

Masses from the cross sections of the society started joining ranks with him and soon Baba Banda Singh Bahadur became a force to reckon with in that part of northern India which at present lies in the state of Haryana. In order to uproot the rule of the Mughals, which had started weakening with so many uprisings against it throughout India he needed to raise an army of the nationalist people. He needed money to buy arms and armaments for his army, therefore, he started raiding the Mughal treasuries. The news of the atrocities by the Mughal Sardars were pouring in from all the directions and it was necessary to punish the perpetrators.

In a place called Narnaul, Satnamis (a religious sect) were massacred by the Jihadi zealots and in order to stop their further brutality, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur decided to teach them a lasting lesson. He engaged them in Narnaul and killed the perpetrators.

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur wanted to organise and equip his army so immaculately that when he attacks Sirhind, which was his next goal, nothing should come between him and the victory. He attacked the territories of Samana and Sadhaura and registered comprehensive victories. He punished Ranghars, who in unison with the Mughal forces had been tormenting Non-Muslims, on his way to Mukhlispur. He captured the said town, fortified it and gave it the name of Lohgadh.

Among the first steps Baba took to set up Khalsa rule was to abolish the Zamindari system. He took away the ownership rights from the Zagirdars and Zamindars and distributed the land among the farmers. Guru Gobind Singh had given a clarion call to end the scourge of caste system from the society and Banda Singh Bahadur started implementing the same.

He not only recruited people from backwards castes into the army, he started giving them places of high status in his court too. The social impact of the move was very positive; those, who used to look down upon their own brethren belonging to the lower sections of the society, started respecting them and Jihadi elements who used to take benefits of the dissensions in the Hindu society started feeling that their days of oppressing the said society were numbered and Hindus had started fighting back with vengeance.

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur had started minting his currency also and Lohgadh had become the crucible of the nationalist forces determined to uproot the Mughal rule from the soil of this country.

Time had come to teach Wazir Khan, the Nawab of Sirhind, a lesson; he had buried two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh alive in a brick wall when the brave souls declined to accept Islam. He had terrified the entire non-Muslim population of the northern belt and used to carry on the Jihadist agenda of the Mughal rulers with fanatic zeal. News of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s plan of attacking Sirhind had reached Wazir Khan. He summoned the Nawabs of the neighbouring Muslim states to join ranks with him and gave the call of Jihad against the forces of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s forces met Wazir Khan’s army in a place called Chappar Chiri around 20 km away from the town of Sirhind. A fierce battle took place but numerically strong forces of Wazir Khan could not stay for long in front of chivalrous Sikh army. The whole battlefield was resounding with the war cries like “Fateh Darshan” and “Bole so Nihal, Sat Sri Akal.” Wazir Khan was killed and the victorious Sikh army captured the town of Sirhind; the rule of tyranny had ended and the rightful revenge for the atrocities on Hindus had been taken.

It is noteworthy that the transformation of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur from a peasant Lachhman Dev to Madhav Das Bairagi and finally to great warrior “Sant Sipahi” had one phenomenon in manifestation and that was the factor of Dharma.

An individual, who once was filled with an emotion of renunciation on the killing of a doe, was mercilessly killing the enemy in battle after battle. He obviously had realised that while the killing of an innocent doe was an act of Adharma, killing of the tyrannical Jihadi forces was an act of Dharma. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur continued his tirade against the oppressors throughout the northern belt of India till the year 1715.

Meanwhile, Bahadur Shah, the Mughal ruler of Delhi started summoning other Muslim Sardars from surrounding states and sent an army of one lakh soldiers to capture Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. Eventually, Baba was cornered with a handful of Sikh soldiers in the fortress of Gurdas Nangal. The historians have recorded facts that for months together the Mughal forces had surrounded the fortress but could not force the Sikhs out of the garhi. The gallant Sikh warriors were coming in batches out of the fortress and were inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. It seemed as if the saying of Guru Gobind Singh, “Sawa Lakh se ek ladaoon, tabhai Gobind Singh naam dharaoon” was coming true outside the garhi of Gurdas Nangal.

After a long seizure of 8 months when not even a straw of grass was left inside the fortress for the Sikh forces to eat, Mughal army was able to capture Baba Banda Singh Bahadur with his remaining companions.

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was chained put in a cage atop an Elephant and was brought to Delhi in a procession with other Sikh soldiers in tow. He was ridiculed and humiliated and made to wear the clothes of a clown.

Meanwhile, in Delhi Farrukhsiar had succeeded Bahadur Shah on Mughal throne and had surpassed his predecessor in the oppression of the Hindus. Three Mughal Sardars, Mohammed Amin Khan, Kamaruddin Khan and Zakariya Khan who had been accompanying the Sikh prisoners brought them to Delhi in the month of February 1716.

For three months, those who wanted to get this country rid of the tyrannical rule of the Mughals were paraded in the streets of Delhi. Heads of the Sikhs were perched on the spears and displayed in a procession to terrorise the people. Eventually, on 9th June 1716, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was told to accept Islam to escape the execution. On refusal, his body parts were chopped off one by one; still, he remained undeterred and kept on meditating on Akal Purakh.

The height of savagery was attained by the Jihadis when his four-year-old son was killed in front of him. His liver was ripped out by the Jallad and was thrust in Baba Banda Singh’s mouth and he was asked for the last time to accept Islam. Sant Sipahi Baba Banda Singh Bahadur who had taken upon himself the cudgels to protect the Dharma, didn’t budge and merged his Atma in almighty Parmatma.

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, by sacrificing his life, had infused a new kind of energy in the masses, the onslaught of the Jihadis was ebbed and the process of forcible conversion of Hindus was stopped. Today, if the events, which took place in that period of history of India are revisited, one will discover that only the regimes and times have changed; the barbaric mindset of the Jihadis remains the same; then there were hordes of marauders who were converting the “Kafirs” to “Momins” and today there are groups like ISIS, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed who are terrorising the world. 

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