17th May is celebrated as the Anniversary of Chhota Ghallughara (lesser holocaust). Chota Ghallughara refers to a bloody action during the campaign of persecution launched by the Mughal governor of Lahore against the Sikhs (March-May 1746). This inhuman episode was known as Ghallughara, later Chhota Ghallughara (as compared to a still greater killing that took place 16 years later, the Vadda Ghallughara of February 5, 1762). Sikhs pay their Tributes to the Great Martyrs of Chhota Ghallughara on this day.
In early 1746, Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluvalia moved northwards and entered Eminabad (55 km north of Lahore) in Gujranwala district (now in Pakistan). He was confronted by the jagirdar (landlord) of that area, Jaspat Rai. Jaspat Rai was killed in this encounter. This led to relentless campaign against the Sikhs by Lakhpat Rai (Jaspat Rai’s brother), diwan (Revenue Minister) of Yahiya Khan (Governor of Lahore). Lakhpat Rai vowed to eliminate all Sikhs. This event led to martyrdom of Sikhs like:-
Bhai Taru Singh
Bhai Mani Singh
Bhai Mehtab Singh
Governor of Lahore issued the order that no one to give any help or shelter to Sikhs. They warned that severe consequences would be taken against anyone disobeying these orders. Mughal armies started killing the Sikhs found anywhere within their jurisdiction. Lakhpat Rai roused the general population for jihad (crusade) against the Sikhs. Sikh inhabitants of Lahore were rounded up and their execution was ordered. Group of Hindu nobles headed by Diwan Kaura Mall approached Lakhpat Rai. They tried to dissuade him from spilling innocent blood. This request was ignored by Lakhpat Rai. He also ignored the advice of his guru, Sant Jagat Bhagat Gosairi, who advised him not to carry out execution of innocent Sikhs on the appointed day of amavasya (the last day of the dark half of the lunar month). Execution took place as ordered on that very day (March 10, 1746). All the Sikhs of Lahore were murdered in cold blood.
Thereafter, Lakhpat Rai set out as the head of fifty thousand troops, mostly cavalry supported by cannons in search of Sikhs, who had concentrated in the swampy forest of Kahnuvan, 15 km south of the present town of Gurdaspur. He surrounded the forest and started a systematic search of Sikhs. Sikhs faced them for some time, striking back whenever possible. Since, Sikhs were heavily outnumbered by the Mughal Army and they did not have sufficient weapons, they decided to make a final strike on their enemy and escape to the hills. Sikhs were of the view that the Hindu population of the hills would give them shelter, but, the hill people instead drove them away with bullets and stones, since, they were scared of the serious consequences of disobeying the orders of Diwan Lakhpat Rai.
Sikhs were in a desperate position. They did not have sufficient food and ammunition. Their horses were weak and fatigued to climb the mountain. They decided to go back to Majha, but the River Ravi was in flood. It was impossible to cross it. They decided that the Sikhs on foot to go towards the mountains and try their luck in that area. Those who had horses were to cut their way through the enemy. Those who went to the mountains managed to spend about six months in Mandi and Kulu. They had to face great hardships. But, they managed to reach Kirtarpur to join their companions.
The main body of the mounted Sikhs rushed through the pursuing army. They were surrounded. Hundreds of them were killed. Some were taken as prisoner. The remaining Sikhs took the shelter in jungle. Sikhs rode towards Lahore. Reaching the river Ravi, they crossed it on rafts made of reeds and grass and returned to Majha. When the Sikhs crossed the river Beas at Sri Hargobindpur, they had to face the forces of Adina Beg. After giving him a taste of battle, Sikhs crossed the river Sutlej from the ferry bank at Aliwal and heaved a sigh of relief after entering Malwa in June, 1746.
Lakhpat Rai got tired of fighting. He marched back in triumph with 3,000 Sikhs captured in the action to Lahore. He got them beheaded in batches at Nakhas (site of the horse market outside the Delhi gate). Sikhs raised a memorial shrine known as the Shahidganj (the treasure house of martyrs) at that place latter. Lakhpat Rai ordered Sikh places of worship to be destroyed and their holy books burnt. During those two and a half months, about seven thousand Sikhs attained martyrdom while fighting. Another three thousand were tortured to martyrdom at Lahore
Lakhpat Rai’s boast of a total annihilation of the Sikhs was soon falsified. In about six months’ time, Sikhs started converged at Amritsar in small groups. On March 30, 1747, the Sarbatt Khalsa (congregation representative of the entire Panth) at Amritsar adopted a gurmata (holy resolution), that a fort named Ram Rauni be constructed by them at Amritsar as a permanent stronghold.
The Govt. of Punjab has constructed a memorial named Chhota Ghallughara Kahnuwan Chhambh Shaheedi Memorial at Kahnuwan Chhamb, Gurdaspur. The area of the memorial is about 10 acres.
Let us pay our sincere tributes to all Shahids (Martyrs) of Chhota Ghallughara.