City of Amritsar was founded by the Fourth Guru, Guru Ramdas ji. Guru Ramdas ji were born in the house of Hari Das, on September 24, 1534 at Lahore., named as Jetha. He was married to the younger daughter of the third Guru Guru Amardas ji, named Bibi Bhani, and had three sons- Prithia, Mahadev and Arjun Dev. He sent out many of his devout disciples called masands or, the Guru's agents, to all over Punjab and even to Afghanistan to spread the gospel and also to collect the offerings of the devotees which he neeed more than ever not only to run the community Kitchen Langar, but also to complete the excavation of the second tank (later called Amritsar) and to expand the activites of the city of Ramdaspur (or Amritsar as it was later called) which he had himself founded in the life-time of the third Guru.
Guru Ramdas ji were guru for short period of seven years. Before departing from this world, he made his youngest son, Arjan Sahib as the next Guru. Guru Arjan Sahib ji got Golden Temple completed. Guru Arjan Sahib ji's biggest achievement was to compile Adi Granth (now Guru Granth Sahib) by Collecting the banis of all Gurus before him and Installing Adi Granth at Golden Temp. Bhai Budha ji were made the first granthi of Golden Temple. Thus Golden Temple became the center of Sikh activities., and Amritsar a Sikh city. With time several other communities settled at Amritsar. Guru Arjan Sahib ji were executed at Lahore on the order of Jehangir the Mughal emperor of India, when Guru ji refused to convert to Islam. The next Guru Guru Hargobind ji fortified Amritsar and got constructed Akal Takht. Akal Takht became the center for political aspirations of Sikhs. Sikhs got together at Golden Temple at Diwali, Visakhi, at all the festivals. Gurmattas , or orders for all Sikhs from Gurus were passed from Akal Takht. Amritsar became a Vatican or a Mecca of Sikhs. City of Amritsar was attacked and Golden Temple was razed to ground several times. Always, at least 5-15 Sikhs or more died defending it against the armies of Mughals, Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali, Zaman Shah, Government of India, etc.
City of Amritsar was first attacked by the imperial forces of Emperor Shahjahan of India. In the year 1628 A.D., Shahjehan was on a hunting expedition nearby and a white hawk, presented to him by the Shah of Iran, flew into the Guru Hargobind ji's camp at Amritsar in pursuit of a duck. The Guru flew a hawk of his own which seized the duck and on the emperor's hawk joining in the seizure, the Sikhs caught them both. There was a brief altercation between Sikhs and Mughals, several Mughals lost their lives and retreated. Emperor was enraged on this insolence and show of authority by the Guru's followers, he sent his general Mukhlis Khan along with 7000 troops to attack City of Amritsar. The Guru offered prayers to the God and assembled his forces of about 1000 men in a fortress, called Lohgarh. Since Sikhs did not had any cannons and very few muskets, they deployed cannons made out of hollow trees to throw stones at imperial army.
Aerial view of Sri Harmandir Sahib
Imperial forces reached Amritsar at dead of night and were engaged in a furious battle. Many heroes were killed on both sides, including Shams Khan, Sultan Beg, two well known generals in Mughal army, and Singha, Mohan and Gopala, valiant warriors on the Guru's side. Bidhi Chand and Paindhe Khan also fought recklessly. Guru himself engaged in battle all around the fort. After several days, Mukhlis Khan challenged Guru Hargobind to a single combat. The Guru galloped quickly to his side and shouted at him, " you strike first, so that you have no regrets. In my house, this also is the rule. We do not invite the battle, nor strike the first blow." Mukhlis Khan waived his sword twice with great Skill at Guru's person, but everytime missed his aim. The Guru gave him no further oppurtunity and struck him with such masterly skill that his was cleaved in two. Mughal forces retreated and first battle of Amritsar was won by Sikhs defending the city. Mughals took their anger on the Gurudwara at Tarn Taran, and filled Baoli , (water storage tank) by earth which was constructd by Guru Arjan Sahib ji.
Baba Atal Rai was son of Guru Hargobind ji. It is said that he started performing miracles which displeased Guru. Baba Atal took the reproof so much to his heart that he soon died. This led to great sorrow and lamentation in the family, but the Guru said, "Atal has become, like his name, immortal, for he has obeyed the will of God willingly. He will be the guardian-angel of the city of Amritsar and no one will turn away from his door hungry or empty-handed." A nine-storeyed structure called Bunga of Baba Atal was also erected later (1778-1784) to commemorate this nine-year wonder of a child and to this day the poor are constantly fed, night and day, and this beautiful shrine chiselled in cool marble. Guru Hargobind engaged Mughals several other times but never had to defend Amritsar or Golden Temple again. Then, Amritsar was not attacked until after Banda Singh Bahadur around 1720's.
In 1726, New governor of Punjab was appointed by Mughals, named Zakriya Khan. He was determined to kill all the sikhs. He gave orders that the Sikhs be hunted out wherever they be. A price was put on the head of each Sikh. Sikhs were captured and brought to horse market at Lahore i.e.,Nakhas where they were killed, Sikhs called this market Shahidganj, or place of the martyrs. This carnage continued for several years. Diwan Lakhpat Rai was general of Zakriya Khan, he was continuously pursuing Sikhs. In one such engagement in 1735, his nephew Jaspat Rai was killed. Lakhpat rai enraged in anger took possession of the City of Amritsar, which was divided among several Sikh families. Bhai Mani Singh ji, head granthi of Golden Temple, the pious and learned custodian of Golden Temple was arrested by Lakhpat Rai and brought to Lahore, where he was given an option to convert to Islam or die. His bodily parts were cut one after another, but he refused to convert.
Sikhs took revenge next year when Nadir Shah invaded India, Sikhs plundered Lahore and its sorroundings. Nadir Shah fought Mughal army at Karnal and easily won this battle. Emperor of India surrendered most of his treasury as well as the Koh-i-noor diamond, the largest of them all. Still, Nadir Shah moved to plunder Delhi, about 150,000 souls were mercilessly butchered in the city of Delhi. It is estimated that the total loot was 70-80 crore of rupees. While this confusion was going on, Sikhs build a mud-fortress on the North-west of Amritsar on the banks of Ravi, in the midst of thick forests, for refuge and retreat at the time of need. When Nadir Shah forces were marching back, Sikhs attacked them deploying Guerilla warfare of tactics and harassed the forces all the way along. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia freed 2000-3000 Hindu girls whom Afghanis were taking to their harem's in Afghanistan. Nadir Shah made Zakriya khan his governor and asked him to totally destroy Sikhs. Zakriya Khan made Massa Ranghar responsible for Amritsar. Massa Ranghar took Amritsar after brief fight where about 10 Sikhs were martyred defending Darbar Sahib. He banned Sikhs taking pilgrimages to Harmandir Sahib. He made Harmandir Sahib his palace and stables. At this time Sikhs would literally gallop in on their horses, take a bath in pool and with lightening speed, disappear. Mehtab Singh of Mirankot, decided to take a revenge of the descretion of Harmandir Sahib, he and Sukha Singh killed Massa Ranghar in August of 1740. The incessant invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali, ruler of Afghanistan, brought the Sikhs in conflict with the Afghans.
Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India ten times in twenty years (1748-1768). During this period the punjab saw a change of 13 governors, from Mir Muin-ul-mulk (Mir Mannu) to Gujar singh Dhillon Aka 'Bhangi'. Ahmad Shah however was defeated in his first invasion, Mir Mannu was responsible for the mughal victory and was thus awarded governorship of Punjab. Sikhs had occupied Amritsar during this period and cleaned Harmandir Sahib, its sanctity restored. Mir Mannu stormed the fort of Ram Rauni, outside Amritsar and captured it. But his forces were halted from further advance by Ahmad Shah Abdali invasion again in the same year of 1748. Mir Mannu surrendered to Abdali and thus averting a disaster for Punjab and Delhi. Now he became Governor of Abdali ruling from Kabul. He continued his atrocities against Sikhs. Several Sikh infants were butchered, their mothers put to torture. On Nov 2, 1753, Mannu Died a miserable death. He was out hunting when his horse bolted at the sight of a vulture and threw the rider off his seat. However, his foot got caught in the stirrup, and he was dragged for some distance before he could be rescued. He breathed his last two days later in severe pain. The next Governor Mahmud Shah, did not engage the Sikhs at all for several years.
In April 1755, Abdali attacked again and won. when he was returning with lot of booty and slaves, Sikhs attacked him and got freed most of slaves and snatched his booty. In 1757 he sent his son Tamur to punish Sikhs. Abdali's other general attacked Amritsar. He was surprised to see only ten Sikhs defending Golden Temple. Golden Temple was razed to ground, pool was filled with the blood of cows and later levelled with dirt. Baba Deep Singh and his Jatha of 5000 Sikhs attacked 60,000+ durranis stationsed at Amritsar and attained martyrdom. Then Abdali burnt the Gurudwara at Kartarpur, and Jalandhar. Abdali left for Kabul leaving Punjab to his general, Tamur Khan. Sikhs got together and attacked Tamur Khan at around Jalandhar with help of Adina Beg Khan. Tamur's army was defeated. All their captains were killed and Afghan baggage and camp looted. All the artillery left behind by Abdali was seized. Sikhs invaded Lahore and captured it. Sikhs took about 5000 Afghani prisoners to Amritsar and made them clean Golden Temple and its pool. Harmandir Sahib was constructed again.
Ahmad shah Abdali invaded India in 1759 for Fifth time specifically to punish Marathas. Marathas abandoned their posts in the tracts of Malwa part of Punjab. Abdali defeated Marathas and retreated to Kabul with lots of booty, Sikhs again snatched most of his booty from his baggage train. Now, Sikhs were virtually rulers of the area between river Ganga and river Indus. A new system was introduced under which each of these misals was asked to register their territory at Akal Takht. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia operating out of Akal Takht at Golden Temple wrote down several documents about what part of Punjabi area belongs to which misl, etc. It is said that horse riders of misals would leave one of their belongings in each village to justify that village is under their protection., and later register it with Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.
In January 1764, Ahmad Shah attacked again. This time to punish Sikhs. Sikhs fled with their valuable belongings. Sikhs had left Golden Temple in charge of Bhai Gurbax Singh with 30 Soldiers and had evacuated Amritsar along with all of their valuables. Bhai Gurbax Singh ji along with 30 Singhs gave a taste of Battle to Durrani (abdali) forces but Singhs could not hold against 30,000. Abdali was amazed by seeing that only thirty Sikhs were defending Golden Temple again. He levelled the pool and blew up the Golden Temple. His allies like the Nawab of Malerkotla helped him when his forces and Abdali forces sorrounded the main body of Sikhs, who were going to Barnala, about 30,000+ women and old men were killed in a single day by Abdali and his allies. Sikhs to day call this carnage, Wadda Ghalughara. Once Ahmad Shah Abdali left, he was never to return to Punjab again.
The Sikh Misls got constructed Darbar Sahib and restored its sancity in 1764 A.D.
Excerpts taken from:
"A History of the Sikh people" by Dr. Gopal Singh.
Bed Time stories by Santokh Singh
Gurmat Gyan (Knowledge)
Other Gurbani Contributors