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Wāddā Ghallūghārā 1762 (Gurmukhi: ਛੋਟਾ ਘੱਲੂਘਾਰਾ) - Sikh Genocide

The Sikh holocaust of 1762 (Punjabi: ਵੱਡਾ ਘੱਲੂਘਾਰਾ Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā "the great massacre or holocaust or Sikh genocide") was the mass killing of the Sikhs by Afghani Durrani Forces that happened during the years of Afghan influence in the Punjab region owing to the repeated incursions of Ahmad Shah Durrani, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali, in 1762. As such, it is distinguished from the Sikh holocaust of 1746 ("the lesser massacre or holocaust"). An estimated 25,000-30,000 Sikhs died in this massacre, up to one-third or half of the Sikh population at the time.

The Sikh holocausts were not pogroms in the sense of the killing of masses of defenseless people. Since the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Sahib in 1606, Sikhs wielded arms in self-defense. They are called ghalughara because of the wholesale slaughter of the innocent with the intention of genocide. The first holocaust was a dramatic and bloody massacre during the Afghan provincial government's campaign to wipe out the Sikhs, an offensive that had begun with the Mughals and lasted several decades.

The teachings of Guru Nanak (1469-1539) gave birth to Sikhism which had grown to be a distinctive social force, especially after the formation of the Order of Khalsa in 1699. The Khalsa was created, in part, to oppose the tyranny of the Mughal Empire and any other form of injustice. Through much of the early eighteenth century, the Khalsa was outlawed by many of the Muslim rulers of northern India and the Panjab and often was forced to survive by seeking the safety of remote forests, deserts, and the swamplands of the Punjab and neighbouring Kashmir and Rajasthan.

The First Sikh Martyr

Since the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Master, Guru Arjun in 1606, Sikhs had known the use of arms and the need of self-defence. The Sikhs, had largely avoided the reign of terror visited upon the hindus long before Babar's invitation to India. Their contributions to their places of worship, often in the form of gold, had been easy pickings for the like of men like Babar. And when the Muslims chose to stay, rather than just rob, the hindu houses of worship had the Murties which to the Muslims smacked of the idols once kept in Makkah's Ka'aba. So while the gentle men of the Sufis were winning many converts to Islam, from mostly the lower castes of the hindus (who were even kept from studying the hindu books of worship or even entering the hindu temples), while the Sunnis often resorted to terror, torture and forced conversions.

The Sikhs having no idols in their places of worship and professing faith in One God were largely ignored. Guru Arjan, the essence of a man of God was arrested by Jahangir, but only after envious men of influence in his court like the envious hindu banker and minister Chandu Shah pushed for his arrest. Jahangir's father Akbar and his father Humayun had been guests of and admirers of the Sikh Gurus (Akbar is even thought to have given the Jagir that grew to be Amritsar and its surrounding villages to the bride of Guru Arjan as a wedding present). Again it was jealousy and the intrigues of the same men that goaded the Mughals into joining them into the first of several (defensive) battles with Guru Hargobind.

Persecution of the Sikhs (1746-62)

In the eighteen years following the first great carnage, the Punjab roiled with five invasions and several years of rebellions and civil war. Under these unsettled circumstances, it was difficult for any authority to carry on a campaign of oppression against the Sikhs. Instead, they were often sought out and valued as useful allies in the various struggles for power.

In times of relative calm, however, the Governor at Lahore and his Afghan allies resumed their genocidal campaigns against the Sikhs. These were characterized by the desecration of Sikh places of worship and the organized capture, torture and execution of tens of thousands of Sikh men, women and children.

The Governorship of Mir Mannu

Mir Mannu (shortened from Mu'in ul-Mulk) became Governor of Lahore and the surrounding provinces in 1748 through his exploits in battle against the Afghan army. His first act as governor was to storm the Sikh fort at Amritsar, where 500 Sikhs had taken shelter. Mir Mannu then stationed detachments of troops in all parts of Punjab with any Sikh inhabitants with orders to capture them and shave their heads and beards. His oppression was such that large numbers of Sikhs moved to relatively inaccessible mountains and forests. The governor ordered the hill rajas to apprehend Sikhs and send them in irons to Lahore. Hundreds were thus taken to Lahore and executed in the horse market before crowds of onlookers.

Partly through the influence of his hindu minister, Kaura Mall, who was sympathetic to the Sikhs, and partly because of the threat of another Afghan invasion, Mir Mannu made peace with the Sikhs the next year. This truce was to last until the passing of Kaura Mall in battle against the Afghans in 1752 and the surrender of Lahore to invader Ahmad Shah Durrani.

In his new role as Governor for the Afghans, Mir Mannu was able to resume his persecution of the Sikhs. Moreover, he had arranged for new artillery to be forged and a unit of 900 men assigned especially to the hunting down of the "infidels". In the words of an eye witness: "Muin appointed most of the gunmen to the task of chastising the Sikhs. They ran after these wretches up to 67 kilometers (42 mi) a day and slew them wherever they stood up to oppose them. Anybody who brought a Sikh head received a reward of ten rupees per head."

According to that same account: "The Sikhs who were captured alive were sent to hell by being beaten with wooden mallets. At times, Adina Beg Khan sent 40-50 Sikh captives from the Doab. They were as a rule killed with the strokes of wooden hammers."

Mir Mannu did not refrain from visiting torture and death upon the Sikh womenfolk and children. According to a Sikh account, the women were seized from their homes and "put to grind grain in the prison. Many were given merciless lashing... Each of the detainees was given 450 kilos (half a ton) of grain to grind in a day. Exhausted from thirst and hunger, they plied their stone-mills. They plied their stone-mills and sang their Guru's hymns. The hindu or the Muslim, or in fact anyone who saw them and listened to their songs was utterly astonished. As their children, hungry and thirsty, wailed and writhed on the ground for a morsel, the helpless prisoners in the clutches of the tyrants could do little except solace them with their affection. Wearied from crying, the hungry children would at last go to sleep."

History recalls instances of Sikh children being hacked to pieces in front of their mothers. The bits of flesh would be thrown around the mothers' necks like garlands. Still the brave women chanted and toiled on.

Mir Mannu's cruel reign (1748–53), however, had little effect on the spirit of the Sikhs. From their suffering and sacrifice, they gained in strength and numbers. A common saying of that time went: "Mannu is our sickle, We the fodder for him to mow. The more he cuts, the more we grow."

The Martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh

In 1757, Ahmad Shah Durrani, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali, invaded India for loot and plunder a fourth time. This time, he was so harassed by Sikh fighters who several times slew his guards and pillaged his baggage train that he determined to take his revenge on them. Since Durrani could not lay his hands on the elusive bands of Sikhs, he determined to vent his fury on their holy city of Amritsar. Sri Harmandir Sahib was blown up and the surrounding pool filled with the entrails of slaughtered cows.

Hearing of the sacrilege, Baba Deep Singh, an elderly scholar of the Sikhs living at Damdama Sahib, 160 kilometers (99 mi) south of Amritsar, was stirred to action. As leader of one of the Sikh divisions entrusted with care of the temple, he felt responsible for the damage that had been done to it and announced his intention of rebuilding the Harmandir Sahib. He then set out with a body of Sikhs toward the holy city. Along the way, many others joined, so there were about 5,000 as they reached the outskirts of Amritsar. In the nearby town of Tarntaran, they prepared themselves for martyrdom by sprinkling saffron on each other's turbans.

When word reached Lahore that a large body of Sikhs had arrived near Amritsar, a general mobilization was ordered. Two large forces were sent. Approaching Amritsar, Baba Deep Singh and his companions encountered them and a fierce battle ensued.

Wielding his double-edged sword, the sixty-nine-year-old Sikh sustained many wounds, his head was severed. Baba Deep Singh still pressed on in his determination to reach the holy shrine, until he made the precincts of the Harmandir and expired. Baba Deep Singh's headless body holding his head on his left hand and wielding his great sword in his right that had fought on until he redeemed his pledge to reach the holy temple.

Wadda Ghallughara, The Holocaust of 1762

The second Ghallughara called the Wadda (major) Ghallughara (|Holocaust) occurred on 5th February 1762 at a place named Kup Rahira, located approximately 12 Km north of Malerkotla in the Punjab state of India.

On receiving information from his informer Akal Das of Jandiala Ahmad Shah Durrani during his sixth invasion of India came to attack and destroy Sikhi down to its roots. Ahmed shah Durani reached Lahore on 3rd Febrary 1762 with a large army, huge armaments and artillery. Recognizing the danger, S. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and S. Charat Singh Sukarchakiya the sikh chiefs left Lahore and proceeded towards Malwa after crossing the Satluj. Singhs were 40000 in number at that time including 10000 women, children and elderly folk. The Singhs wanted to move their women folk to Bikaner for safety. Ahmed Shah instructed Zain Khan his subedar of Sirhand to keep the Singhs engaged till his arrival. They intended to kill them altogether the next day. Bhikhan Khan of Malerkotla also joined Zain Khan.

"Aur shah pe gaye halkare, Singh aaye hain daye hamare;ham itt wal teh rakhen gher,tum in maro hot saver".

Ahmad Shah returning after conquest

Site of Wadda Ghallughara, The Holocaust of 1762

As Ahmad Shah was returning home after his historic victory over the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat in 1761, the Sikhs had harassed him all the way from the Sutlej right up to the Indus. Returning to the Central Punjab, they ravaged the country all around, annihilated the Afghan force in Char Mahal, drove away the faujdar of Jalandhar, plundered Sirhind and Malerkotla, defeated a force, 12,000 strong, sent by Ahmad Shah from Afghanistan to punish them and another led personally by the Afghan governor of Lahore, and even captured Lahore, all within a short period, June-September 1761.

At a general assembly (Sarbatt Khalsa) of the Dal at Amritsar convened on the occasion of Divali, 27 October 1761, it was resolved to punish the agents, informers and collaborators of the Afghans, beginning with Aqil Das of Jandiala, head of the heretical Niranjania sect and an inveterate enemy of the Sikhs. Aqil Das despatched messengers posthaste to Ahmad Shah Durrani, who had in fact already entered India at the head of a large army.

Meanwhile, the Sikhs had besieged Jandiala, 18 km east of Amritsar. Aqil Das's messengers met the Shah at Rohtas. The latter advanced at a quick pace but before he reached Jandiala, the Sikhs had lifted the siege and retired beyond the Sutlej with the object of sending their families to the safety of the wastelands of Malwa before confronting the invader.

Shah determined to punish Sikhs

Ahmad Shah, on the other hand, determined to teach the Sikhs a lesson, sent messages to Zain Khan, faujdar of Sirhind, and Bhikhan Khan, chief of Malerkotla, directing them immediately to check the Sikhs' advance, while he himself taking a light cavalry force set out at once and, covering a distance of 200 km including two river crossings in fewer than forty eight hours, caught up with the Sikhs who were encamped at Kup Rahira, 12 km north of Malerkotla, at dawn on the 5th of February 1762.

The Dal Khalsa, comprising all of the eleven misls and representatives of the Sikh chiefs of Malwa, was taken by surprise. The attacks of Zain Khan and Bhikhan Khan were easily repulsed, but the main body of Ahmad Shah, much larger and better equipped, soon overtook them. Having to protect the slow moving vahir or baggage train including women, children, old men and other non-combatants, the Sikhs could not resort to their usual hitandrun iactics, and a stationary battle against such superior numbers was inadvisable.

On the day of the attack (February 5th, 1762) Zain Khan attacked with his 20000 men and artillery. Abdali also joined the attack with 30000 horsemen. S. Jassa Singh and S. Charat Singh ordered to encircle their womenfolk and keep proceeding towards Barnala as a war strategy. Singh's only aim was to save their women folk somehow and fight with enemy to inflict maximum losses on their end. In this process Singhs suffered heavy casualties.

Many Sikhs killed

Nearly 25000 to 30000 of Singhs lost their lives. S. Jassa Singh was inflicted with 22 wounds and S. Charat Singh with 19. Every one of sikh warriors had been wounded in this fight. Bhai Kahn Singh of Nabha writes that Sri Guru Granth Sahib Bir of Damdama sahib wali could not be saved in the battle. But Singhs never lost morale even after such a massacre in which more than 70 pecent of them lost their lives.They reorganized themselves very soon and during july 1762 were once again able to surround and besiege Lahore.

Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, the commander-in-chief of the Dal, therefore, turning down a suggestion by Sardar Charhat Singh Sukkarchakkia to form a solid square of four misls to face the enemy with two misls each protecting either flank of the vahir and balance in reserve, decided that all the misls combining to form a single force should make a cordon round the vahir and start moving towards Barnala, 40 km to the southwest, with the agents of the Malwa chiefs acting as guides.

Thus "Fighting while moving and moving while fighting," says Ratan Singh Bhangu, Prachm Panth Prakash, on the authority of his father and an uncle who had taken part in this battle, "they kept the vahir marching, covering it as a hen covers its chickens under its wings." On several occasions, the Shah's troops broke the cordon and butchered the helpless non-combatants, but every time the Sikh warriors reformed and pushed back the attackers.

The Sikhs march towards Barnala

By early afternoon they reached a big pond, the first they had come across since the morning. The fighting stopped automatically as the two forces fell pellmell, man and animal, upon the water to quench their thirst and relax their tired limbs. The battle was not resumed. The Sikhs marched off towards Barnala and Ahmad Shah thought it prudent not to pursue them in the little known semi-desert with an army that had had no rest during the past two days and had suffered considerable loss of life in the daylong battle.

Estimates of the Sikhs' loss of life vary from 20,000 to 50,000. The more credible figures are those of Miskin, a contemporary muslim chronicler, who estimated 25,000, and Ratan Singh Bhangu, who give the toll at 30,000. This could have been a crippling blow to the Sikhs, but such was the state of their morale that, to quote the Prachm Panth Prakash again, as the Sikhs gathered in the evening that day, a Nihang stood up and proclaimed aloud, "... the fake has been shed; the true Khalsa remains intact."

The Sikhs rose again within three months to attack Zain Khan of Sirhind, who bought peace by paying them Rs 50,000 in May, and they were ravaging the neghbourhood of Lahore during July-August 1762, Ahmad Shah, who was still in the Punjab, watching helplessly the devastation of the Jalandhar Doab at their hands.

Another Article on Wāddā Ghallūghārā

The Wadda Ghallughara of 1762 recalls to mind the dreadful massacre of the Sikhs by the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Durrani that left some 25000 men, women and children dead. It is differentiated from the Chota Ghallughara (or small holocaust) in 1746 when 7,000 soldiers were killed by the Mughal army in occupation of Punjab. It came like a thunderbolt for the emerging Sikh nation. As evidence of the Sikh character, they refused to give up. They fought on with a dogged determination and defeated Ahmad Shah and his Indian allies in a short span of time.

The massacre derives its importance not only for the remembrance of the martyrs but the steely resolve that resulted, displayed subsequently by Punjabis in the face of insurmountable odds and which finally brought them the cherished goals of freedom and sovereignty. It also ensured that the reputations of the two great Sikh leaders involved-Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Padshah of the Panth and commander-in-Chief of the army, without whom the massacre would have been complete, and Charat Singh Suckerchakia, grandfather of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, soared across north India for their sheer courage, grit and patriotism.

Invasion from Northwest

Ahmad Shah Durrani was part of a long line of conquerors that invaded Punjab since Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001. He first invaded in 1748. By 1752 the Mughal Emperor had ceded Punjab and other territory. In 1756-7, on his fourth invasion of hindustan he comprehensively looted Delhi, Mathura and Brindavan and massacred thousands. The wealth that Ahmad Shah took back required 28000 elephants, camels, bullocks and mules. His army of 80000 horse and foot accompanied him with their own loot and slaves. He came for loot and revenue. His Empire, which included Afghanistan, Baluchistan, territory in the Makran coast, Khorasan, Punjab, Sind, Kashmir and Sirhind, required a standing army of 100,000 and this needed extraordinary financial resources.

India was crucial to his strategy because it provided 70% of these. Without India he would be an essentially local Chieftain engrossed in petty rivalries with his Persian and Afghan counterparts. Anyone who came in the way of his purpose had to be annihilated. There was too simply too much at stake. The Marathas were powerful, had made inroads into Punjab and helped Adina Beg Khan regain the Governorship at Lahore in 1760 at the expense of his nominees. Ahmad Shah crushed them at Panipat in 1761. In 1762 he came to deal specifically with the Sikhs in a manner that would remove forever their threat to his empire.

Sacrifice and Valour

The Sikhs had come a long way since Sikhism started by Guru Nanak first took root in the 15th Century. The faith started having military overtones under Guru Hargobind as a result of Mughal excesses. The Sikhs gained a sense of community under subsequent Gurus helped particularly by the martyrdoms of Guru Arjun and Guru Tegh Bahadur. It was however Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and last Guru, who revolutionized Sikh society by creating the Khalsa and transforming ‘a sect of pacifists into a militant brotherhood of crusaders'. He became joti jot (merged with god) in 1708 but he had fired the imagination of the people in their fight against injustice, given them a deep longing for freedom, ‘trained the sparrow to fight the hawk' and convinced them that Raj Karega Khalsa (The Khalsa shall rule).

Banda Bahadur who followed gave the Sikhs a taste of sovereignty. It was left to those who came after his death in 1715 – Kapur Singh, Budh Singh Suckerchakia, Bagh Sigh Hollowalia, Bhai Mani Singh and others who simply refused to give in to Mughal authority. Whilst the Sikhs were on the receiving end they were a force to be reckoned with by the middle of the 18th century. Younger, more daring and courageous individuals had emerged and the Sikhs were now united for a common purpose with a unified central command of their army, the Dal Khalsa, divided into 11 Misls or divisions and further into the Budha and Taruna Dal, both under the supreme leadership of the popularly elected Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. They met twice yearly at Baisakhi and Diwali at Amritsar, a town which now had emotional significance.

Gurmatas or resolutions passed were binding on all Chiefs. A mass movement was rapidly building up in support of the cause which was to play a crucial role in the struggle. This had something to do with the enthusiasm created by the victories of the Khalsa over the Mughals and Afghans. So their perceptions changed making them bolder and going all out for sovereignty.

Liberating Heartland

Amritsar was captured from Salabat Khan in 1748. Large areas of Punjab were brought under their influence through Rakhi or protection money. They had defeated Adina Beg Khan in 1757, then marched with Adina Beg Khan on Jalandhar and defeated and expelled the Afghans at Mehilpur (1757) and then helped the Marathas to attack Sirhind and then help them and Adina Beg to expel the Afghans from Lahore (1758). They had risen in revolt everywhere and were often successfully relieved Ahmad Shah of much of his booty.

Even after his great victory at Panipat in 1761 Ahmad Shah's army was harassed and harried for war stores, guns, ammunition and horses! On his way back, in a daring daylight attack near Goindwal, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia forcibly secured the release of 2200 hindu girls being taken to Afghanistan as slaves. His reputation soared as the defender of both hindus and Sikhs, being now referred to as Bhandi Chhor (Liberator). As soon as Ahmad Shah left Punjab, Charat Singh Suckerchakia defeated and killed Mirza Jan, the Faujdar of Chahar Mahal.

Ahmad Shah sent a cavalry force of 12000 under Nooruddin Thamezei and this too was defeated. In retaliation the Lahore Administrator encircled Gujjranwala, Charat Singh's base. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Hari Singh Bhangi, Lehna Singh and Gujar Singh defeated him. The joint Sikh forces were to conquer Lahore in 1761. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was declared padshah and coins were struck! Jassa Singh further drove away the Afghan Administrators of the Jalandhar Doab-Saddat Khan and Saddiq Beg while Charat Singh and the Bhangi Sardars conquered the whole territory north of Lahore. Ahmad Shah was naturally furious. Acting upon a Gurmata at the Diwali of 1761, the Khalsa commenced removing all pockets of Afghan resistance in Punjab.

A showdown between Ahmad Shah and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and the Sikhs was now inevitable. Jandiala was attacked first. Mahant Akhil Das, the Durrani representative, refused to surrender and immediately sent camel riders to inform Ahmad Shah, who unknown to him or the Sikhs was already on his way into Punjab. The fort in Lahore was still in the hands of Afghans and when Jassa Singh Ahluwalia learnt of Ahmad Shah's movements and in order not to be caught between the Afghans at Lahore and Ahmad Shah's troops, he immediately ordered the evacuation of Lahore and also raised the siege of Jandiala. He realized that it would be safer to send their families south to the Malwa desert area which had a predominantly Sikh population and so 50000 including the Khalsa escort started their movement to the South.

Ahmad Shah, informed of the great numbers of Sikhs leaving for the south, first went to Jandiala to catch them. He missed them by a hairs breath. His return to Lahore and the rumours he spread that his object was Delhi and beyond, made the Sikhs, spread out over a few miles, became complacent and removed the urgency from their march. When Ahmad Shah received news from Bhikan Khan, the Nawab of Malerkotla , that the Sikhs were at kup, 6 miles north of Malerkotla with their Bahir or caravan at Pind Garma, a few miles away, he was thrilled at this chance. They had always managed to frustrate his designs by disappearing into the jungles of Amritsar. He would not let this opportunity slip away.

The Invasion

Ahmad Shah, the greatest conqueror of his time was to show his true qualities of generalship. He took a large force of horsemen consisting of Ghulam Shahis (royal slaves) mostly kept in reserve and equipped with short light blunderbusses with a heavy caliber (sher-bachas), and light cavalry armed with lances and broadswords. With an ability inherited from the Turko-Persian tradition based upon long distance forays in the arid zones of the Middle East and Central Asia, he covered 200 miles in less than 36 hours, having crossed both the Rivers Sutlej and Beas. He divided his army into three parts: the first part was of Shah Wali Khan, his Wazir who was to join up with Zain Khan, the Governor of Sirhind and Bhikan Khan; the other was under his most distinguished General, Jahan Khan and one part under himself. This army was double the size of the Sikh fighting force of 20000.


The first engagement took place when Ahmad Shah ordered Zain Khan to engage the Sikhs. On seeing these troops under his Captain Qasim Khan, the hero of Patti, the Sikhs were shocked and surprised and immediately galloped towards their Bahir. Qasim Khan, gave chase but the Sikhs turned round and charged him with great effect so that he fled to Malerkotla. Captain, Murtaza Khan with 500 horse however stood his ground and so delayed the advance of the Sikhs.

As soon as they had dealt with Murtaza Khan, they were surprised to see the main body of the Afghans under Shah Wali Khan and Bhikan Khan blocking their way to Pind Garma. This enabled part of their troop to mercilessly, slaughter the Sikhs in the Bahir. The Sikhs were now surrounded from 3 sides with another arm of Zain Khan's army coming from the north.

The Sikhs who normally preferred to use Dhai Phat or hit and run tactics, had now to undertake a pitched battle in which they knew the better trained and disciplined Afghans had the upper hand. Upon Charat Singh's advice, the army was formed into solid squares, with the best men in charge to protect each side of the square. Also present were Baghel Singh, Jai Singh Kanhaiya, Shahid Natha Singh, the Nishawalias, the Dallewalias, and others. They then rode out to face the Afghan onslaught. The Sikhs though slowed down could not be scattered much to Ahmad Shah's frustration and managed to reach their Bahir. It was here that the inspired generalship of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia came into play.

Human Wall

With a view to ensuring the safety to their women and children spread over many miles, the Sikhs formed a human wall around the caravan and proceeded slowly towards Barnala, the territory of a co-religionist, Ala Singh of Patiala, where they felt they would be safe. Any other manouvre would have resulted in an unthinkable conclusion for the entire Bahir.

They fought as they moved all the time trying to protect the caravan. This bold manouvre was supervised personally by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Charat Singh Suckerchakia. Ahmad Shah seeing that their circle was not being penetrated, sent Jahan Khan with 8000 troops. As at Panipat, Ahmad Shah had this reserve detachment of seasoned troops which he used with devastating effect. The cordon around their families was spread thinly and whilst the Sikhs still kept edging towards Barnala, it became easy for the Afghans to cause a breach.

The cordon was to give way in many places resulting in mass slaughter, given there were no armed fighters within the Bahir. Despite shows of great personal bravery the Sikhs, already outnumbered, were outmanouvered. In the late afternoon, the remnants of the Caravan reached the villages of Kutaba and Bahmni. May rushed into these villages for shelter only to find hostile Afghans. The Ranghars of these villages attacked the Sikhs and although they were beaten back, enormous damage had been done.

The Afghans finally stopped at a pond near these two villages. Their men and horses were exhausted after riding 36 hours of riding from Lahore and then with 10 hours of fighting! Skirmishes continued till Barnala 40 miles from Kup but the Afghans had had enough. They had had their fill of killing for one lifetime and the Sikhs taught enough of a lesson. But this was not the end for the Sikhs. In some villages they would get no help because of possible Afghan reprisals and further trouble from the Brar tribes who had turned against them.


By the time of casualties were counted there were 25000 dead including the women, children and elderly. Ahmad Shah carried 50 cartloads of Sikh heads to Lahore belonging to the slain in battle and erected large pyramids. He also took many captives. The two original volumes of the Holy Granth from Amritsar and Dam-Dama Sahib were lost to the Afghans. There was not a single warrior who was not wounded. Charat Singh ‘could not count the wounds he received from the arrows, spears and swords of the enemy' and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, at the forefront of the fighting, received 67 wounds! But approximately 25000 had survived. They had fought a pitched battle and knew they could do it again with a good chance of victory.

Ahmad Shah was to proceed towards Amritsar and blow up the Harmandar Sahib until not a brick remained. It is said that a flying piece of mortar hit his nose during these proceedings resulting in a wound and then an incurable ulcer which disfigured his face and ultimately led to his death years later! The Tank was filled up with earth and the entrails of dead cows. Ahmad Shah felt sure he had destroyed their backbone and could now attack and loot hindustan at will. How wrong he was!

Rather harshly, a Nihang was quoted as saying, after the massacre, that “whilst the alloy had been purged, the true Khalsa was intact”. He probably really meant that the Sikh spirit of defiance lived on despite the losses! This spirit was to show itself immediately afterwards.

While Ahmad Shah was still at Lahore, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia attacked Sirhind and extracted a tidy sum from the Governor, Zain Khan. Ahmad Shah stayed on in Punjab till the winter. He was amazed that the Sikhs had once again started their activities against him. So when he learnt that the entire Sikh nation had gathered at Amritsar for the Diwali festival on 17th October, he resolved to destroy them completely and marched to Lahore.

Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, ‘the Mountain' with all the Chiefs and their armies met Ahmad Shah in battle. The Sikhs realizing that their quest for freedom and sovereignty would be shattered with defeat, fought with a primeval ferociousness. Proximity to Amritsar helped morale. The pitched battle lasted the entire day and ended with Ahmad Shah retiring back to Lahore. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia's victory was in no way complete or comprehensive, the battle being fought with an army smaller that that of his.

Nevertheless, as with the Mongols defeated by the Mamelukes of Egypt at the battle of Ayn Jalut (modern Syria) in 1260, it shattered the myth of Afghan invincibility. The Sikhs realized that ultimate victory could and indeed would be theirs.


By 1768 Punjab was to be completely free. Ahmad Shah left in December, 1762. By early 1763 Hari Singh Bhangi took Kasur, the largest Afghan pocket in Punjab. The Jalandhar Doab was retaken by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. Charat Singh Suckerchakia and Hari Singh Bhangi defeated Jahan Khan at Sialkot in November, 1763 and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia defeated and killed Bhikan Khan, Nawab of Malerkotla. Sirhind was recaptured in 1764 and the territory distributed amongst themselves.

A few weeks afterwards they arrived in Lahore and dictated terms to Kabuli Mal, the Governor. Ahmad Shah was to return with an army of 30000. He went upto Sirhind and was attacked on his way back by all the major Misl Chiefs-Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Charat Singh Suckerchakia, the Bhangis, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jai Singh Kahaiya – Ahmad Shah was repeatedly attacked and realized that his authority was limited to no more than his camp.

In April, 1765 the Bhangi Sardars captured Lahore. It was Lehna Singh's benign administration that changed the heart of the populace towards the Sikhs. Ahmad Shah came to Punjab for the 8th time in 1766, once again to remove the Sikh menace. In Lahore he found the populace well disposed to the Sikhs, offered Lehna Singh the Governorship only to be politely refused. Ahmad Shah was frustrated and confused.

The Sikhs would not fight him and they would spurn his friendship. In January, 1767 Jahan Khan audaciously attacked Amritsar and was thoroughly thrashed. Ahmad Shah during this invasion tried to reach Delhi but the Sikhs simply would not let him. They hovered over him and harried him. Finally he gave up and went back.

The only power now left in hindustan who was allied to Ahmad Shah was Najib-ud-Daulah, the Rohilla Chief whose territories the Sikhs had begun to devastate. He did have initial victories but was defeated in 1768. This was the last bastion of Afghan rule.

Punjab was now free after 800 years! Ahmad Shah was to come again – in 1769. This was his ninth and final attempt but this time he was even unable to cross the Jhelum!

In 1783 Jassa Singh, who attacked Delhi and the environs with 40000 horse, to prove a point, sat on the throne of Delhi! With the defence of Punjab, the gateway to India, and the subjugation of the Mughals, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and the Sikh Chiefs gave freedom to their countrymen and ensured the preservation of hindu and Sikh culture and religion and this was their greatest contribution to India.

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