Sirhind Fateh Diwas (Victory Day) is observed to commemorate victory of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur over Sirhind, where younger sahibzadas (sons) of Guru Gobind Singh sacrificed their lives for refusing to accept Islam. Baba Banda Bahadur captured the Sirhind city and hoisted the Sikh flag in Chappar chiri on May 14, 1710.
Wazir Khan, the Subadar (Governor) of Sarhind had vowed to finish the roots of Sikhs.
Mughal force of many thousand soldiers failed to capture Guru Gobind Singh at Chamkaur. Wazir Khan was furious on this issue.
Wazir Khan was delighted when the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh, 9 year old Baba Zorawar Singh and 6 year old Baba Fateh Singh along with their grandmother Mata Gujri fell into his custody.
Younger Sahibzadas refused Subedar’s offers of power and wealth in lieu of adopting Islam. Wazir Khan ordered his men to brick them alive into a wall. He thought that the young children would choose Islam over such a gruesome death. But, even this harsh punishment had failed to change the mind of the Guru’s younger sons. When the bricks enclosing the young Princes tumbled to the ground, Wazir Khan ordered their execution.
Banda Singh Bahadur (Laxman Das) was the Sikh Military Commander responsible for the victory over Sarhind. He initiated struggle against the Mughal Empire in the early 18th century. He is also known as one of the leading Khalsa martyrs.
He was a Hindu Dogra Rajput. He was born on October 16, 1670 at Rajouri in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir. He was named Lachman Dev. He was fond of wrestling, horseback, riding and hunting.
As a young man, he once shot a doe. He was shocked to see the mother and her aborted fawn writhing in pain. This gloomy scene had a great impact on him. He left his home and became a disciple of a Bairagi Sadhu (saint) Janaki Das, who gave him the name Madho Das.
In the company of the Sadhus, he travelled through Northern India and finally arrived at Nanded (Maharashtra), situated on the bank of the river Godavari. By that time, he had attained great spiritual power. He started using it against other saints at that place. Thus, all saints at Nanded were scared of his miraculous power.
Guru Gobind Singh deliberately went to his monastery. Bariagi Mado Das tested his power on the Guru and for the first time, he failed to dominate his opponent. After a brief discourse, the Bairagi fell to the Guru’s feet and declared that he was Guru’s banda (deciple).
Guru Gobind Singh had expected that Emperor Bahadur Shah would fulfil his promise of taking action against the Governor of Sirhind and his accomplices for their cruel actions against the people of Punjab. The promise was given by Bahadur Shah to the Guru earlier, when Shah asked for guru’s help in the war of succession after the death of his father Aurangzeb. Guru Gobind Singh had rendered help to Bahadur Shah to become emperor of India. Bahadur Shah did not fulfil his promise. The Guru was disappointed with the diplomacy of the ruler.
The Guru held a darbar and administered Pahul (ceremonial initiation into Khalsa) to Madho Das. Gurud named him Gurbaksh Singh (blessed by the Guru). Guru appointed him as his jathedar (military commander) and invested him with full political and military authority as his deputy to lead the campaign against the Mughal administration in Punjab and to punish Nawab Wazir Khan and his supporters for their inhuman crimes.
The Guru gave five arrows from his quiver to Banda as a symbol of temporal authority. He was given an advisory council of the five devoted Sikhs (Hazuri Singhs), who on their arrival in the Punjab were to assure the Sikhs that Banda was the Guru’s nominee to organize them against Mughals and Sirhind to avenge the atrocities committed against the Sikhs. These Singhs were Bhagwant Singh Bangeshri, a cousin of Bhai Mani Singh, Baj Singh, Kuir Singh, Dharam Singh and Fateh Singh.
Twenty five soldiers accompanied Banda from Nanded to Punjab. A Hukumnamah (edict) by the Guru, instructing Sikhs to join Banda Singh Bahadur in his struggle against tyrant Wazir Khan (Mughal Goverener of Punjab) was also given. As an insignia of the temporal authority vested in him, the Guru also gave him his own sword. A Bow, nagara (War drum) and Nishan Sahib (Sikh Flag)
Three hundred Sikh Risaldari (cavaliers) in battle array accompanied Banda up to a distance of eight kilometres to give him a final send off.
Banda’s strategy was to reach Punjab after avoiding the confrontation enroot, to mobilize an army of volunteers, to give arms training to them in an impossibly short period of time and to destroy the mighty Mughal administrative centres in Punjab. This strategy was planned during the long journey of about one year from Nanded to Punjab. Banda Singh Bahadur executed these strategies to perfection. Mughal power centres Samana, Ghuram, Thaska, Mustafabad and Sadhaura were captured one after another.
Banda Singh Bahadur had adopted the vital principles of war. These were Surprise, Flexibility, Offensive action and Concentration of Force at a point to gain local superiority. Even Muslim authors of that time such as Qazi Noor Mohammad, Ghulam Hussain Mohammad, Qasim Kamwar Khan and Khafi Khan have grudgingly praised the fighting skills of the great Sikh warrior. Thus, Mughals had completely lost the control over the areas in present day Haryana and Panjab. With the assistance of Sikh peasant army, Banda Singh Bahadur had established complete and popular sovereignty in that area. He implemented agricultural land ownership reforms. He had a volunteer Sikh force, which was keen to over throw Mughal control. Jats, Gujars, Rajputs, Hindus and Sikhs played a vital role. Banda Singh Bahadur devoted three months in organizing his civil and military administration.
Bahadur Shah was about 100 km away from Delhi, yet the weak Mughal ruler of Delhi did not have the courage to confront Banda Singh Bahadur. Wazir Khan, Governor of Sirhind was carrying out his preparations to meet the danger from Banda Singh Bahadur independently.
Banda’s troops were mostly untrained Sikh peasants. These were not even properly armed. Banda did not possess elephants and good horses. He had only a few guns. However, His followers had immense Sikh pride coupled with a burning desire to take revenge from the ruthless rulers of that time. They were armed with only a few matchlocks, agricultural spears, swords, bows and arrows. The number of Banda’s troops rose from thirty to forty thousand in a short period of time. Wazir Khan proclaimed a jihad (holy war) against Banda. He was supported by the Nawab of Malerkotla, other Muslim chiefs, jagirdars (landlords) and Ranghars in large number. Majority of his soldiers were well trained. Wazir Khan’s own forces were six thousand horsemen, eight to nine thousand musketeers (burqandaz) and archers. He also had about ten guns of artillery and many elephants. In addition, there were about ten thousand Ghazis. The total number of Wazir Khan’s troops was about thirty thousand.
Banda advanced from Lohgarh and halted at Banur, near Ambala, fourteen kilometres from Rajpura. Banda sacked the town, and then went towards Sirhind.
A large force of Sikhs was moving from Doaba and Majha regions of Punjab to join Banda’s main force moving from Banur. Wazir Khan sent a strong force under Sher Mohammed Khan of Malerkotla towards Ropar to prevent this force to join Banda Singh Bahadur. After a fierce battle, the valiant Sikhs prevailed. Thus Banda succeeded in concentrating his force for the final battle.
Banda Singh Bahadur studied the battlefield from a high ground. He kept a reserve of elite troops ready to be committed like a lightning strike in the most vulnerable area to achieve a breakthrough in the enemy defences. At Chappar Chiri, the Mughals were far superior in numbers, Weapons and Guns. Sikhs lost men in the early phase of the battle. Banda Singh Bahadur broke through the enemy defence, by leading his reserves at that vital moment in the battle. Wazir Khan fell from his horse. He was captured alive. The Mughal army was completely routed. Banda Bahadur lost nearly 5000 soldiers in this battle. Wazir khan was killed and his body was hung upside down on a tree at a prominent place. This tree still stands as a symbol of the fate of the ruthless ruler.
Sikhs reached Sirhind by nightfall. The gates of the city were closed. The guns mounted on the walls of the fort started firing at the Sikh force. They cordoned the city and they took rest at night. Wazir Khan’s family and many Muslim nobles fled to Delhi at night.
By the next afternoon, the Sikhs took control over the battlefield and opened the gates of Sirhind. The force entered the city. The Government treasury and moveable property worth two crores fell into Banda’s hand. It was sent to Lohgarh. Banda Singh Bahadur gave the opportunity to Muslims (who were earlier forcefully converted to Islam) to embrace Sikhism by their free will. Dindar Khan Son of Jalal Khan Rohilla, Mir Nasir-ud-din the official newswriter of Sirhind and many other Muslims adopted Sikhism voluntarily. On 27 May, 1710, a huge diwan (gathering) was organised at Sirhind city. At this gathering, Banda Singh Bahadur announced the establishment of Sikh rule in Sirhind and an end to the tyranny of the Mughal rule, which had spread terror and injustice towards the people of the region.
Banda Bahadur repaired the old imperial fort of Mukhlispur occupied by him at the time of conquest of Sadhaura. He gave it the name of Lohgarh and established his capital at that place. Sirhind was the economic and provincial capital of Mughals in Punjab. The entire province of Sirhind consisted of twenty-eight paraganas. It extended from the Satluj to the Jamuna and from the Shiwalik hills to Kunjpura, Karnal and Kaithal, yielding Rs. Fifty two lakhs annual revenue. Baj Singh was appointed as the governor of Sirhind.Ali Singh was his deputy. Their chief responsibility was to be on guard against the Mughal troops from Lahore and Jammu. Fateh Singh retained charge of Samana. Ram Singh, brother of Baj singh became the Chief of Thanesar. Binod singh in addition to his post of the revenue minister was entrusted with the administration of Karnal and Panipat. His main duty was to guard the road from Delhi. Banda retired to his capital at Lohgarh. The Zamindari system was abolished in the whole province in one stroke.
Banda Singh Bahadur is not only remembered for his lifetime achievements, but also for the way he sacrificed his life. He was captured by the Mughals. He refused to give up his faith. Sikhs were tortured in his presence to force him to adopt Islam. Banda Singh still refused to adopt Islam. Ultimately, his 4 year old son was hacked to pieces in his presence. Banda Singh’s eyes were pulled out, his hands and feet chopped off. His flesh was torn with red-hot pincers and finally his body was cut into small pieces. The legacy of Banda Singh has lead him to be hailed as one of the greatest ever Sikhs.