Banda Singh Bahadur: A Salute to a Great Warrior
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur's short-lived rule had a far reaching impact on the history of the Punjab people and the Sikhs. The battle of Sirhind was fought and won on May 12, 1710. This established the first Sikh state in India. Banda Singh Bahadur avenged the martyrdom of two sons of Guru Gobind Singh. With that came the decay of the Mughal authority and the demolition of the feudal system and the society it had created. To commemorate the Tri-Centenary of the victory of Sirhind by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, the Sikhs are celebrating this last Shatabdi with much fervor and enthusiasm at Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab. This is a summary of his life and his story as we remember him 300 years later.
Baba Banda Bahadur Singh was born as Lachman Das on October 27, 1670 at Rajauri, in the Poonch district of Western Kashmir. He was tender-hearted even at a young age. He resolved to become a Sadhu after he shot a female deer and watch her die before his eyes. Shortly after he met Janki Das Bairagi and became his disciple. He became a Bairagi and took the name of Madho Das. He wondered from place to place with a band of Bairagies. This is when he came to Punjab. After a short time he wandered around and came to Nasik on the banks of the river Godavari. Finally he settled at Nanded and established a dera of his own. Here he learnt various Tantric and magical powers.
In 1708, Guru Gobind Singh visited Banda Singh's monastery. Madho Das tried to practice his magic tricks on the Guru and failed terribly! This is when he knew that he found his master at last! Guru Gobind Singh transformed him to his faith and baptized him as a member of the Khalsa and gave him the title of 'Bahadur'. He called himself Guru's Banda (slave). This is when his named officially changed to Banda Singh. Guru Gobind taught Banda Singh faith and the history of the Sikh's and all that they had to suffer. Banda Singh yearned to be a warrior and battle in the fields. He wanted to punish all those that did un-justice to the Sikhs.
Banda Singh was appointed leader of the Khalsa. He promised to remain pure in his faith as well as his conduct. The Sikh's flocked to him and joined his forces and fought lots of battles that killed many enemies. Emperor Bahadur Shah heard the news of Banda Singh's success and sent a huge army to fight against Banda Singh and his forces. The Sikh's had too many enemies and not enough men. They all hid in the fort of Lohgarh. They became very desperate and ran out to the hills of Nahan. They called out for more Sikh's. At this time Raja of Chamba became Baba Banda Singh's friend and ally. He gave Banda Singh a beautiful bride from his own family. Banda Singh and his people conquered several more places and retreated to the hills again.
|Gurudwara Banda Bahadur, Nanded|
An imperial order came about to kill all Sikhs. The Sikhs were slaughtered in huge numbers. Banda Singh was ordered to evacuate Lohgarh and eventually he and his followers then retreated to the village of Gurdas-Nangal. They were brutally attacked once more. They lost almost all their men and had absolutely no food. They were all starving. They were forced to eat grass, leaves and bark. The Sikhs became far too weak to fight. The imperial army attacked and took Banda Singh's wife and three year old son as prisoners. Baba Banda Singh was bound in chains in four places and put in a cast iron cage on top of an elephant and paraded around. Hundreds of other Sikhs were as well. Thousands more were killed and the heads of 2000 Sikhs were hung on spears and carried along with the other prisoners.
Banda Singh was offered to choose between Islam and death. He chose to die rather than give up his beloved faith. This is when his torture began. His baby son was placed on his lap. His son's heart was ripped out. While his heart was still beating in his enemies hand it was forced into his mouth. Banda Singh was tortured, killed and then his head was placed on a spear and paraded around for all Sikhs to witness!
Today, Banda Singh Bahadur is celebrated as a great warrior and the first Sikh ruler who established the first Sikh state. Banda Singh was the ultimate warrior and loved his Sikh people and his faith until the very end. He gave a decisive defeat to Wazir Khan and established the first Sikh kingdom at Sirhind. He issued coins in the names of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh and ended the feudal mogul system by giving ownership rights to cultivators and land tillers. He avenged the barbarous execution of Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh, the two young sons of Guru Gobind Singh.
With his end Sikhism did not die. On the contrary Sikhism came out even stronger and the torch of Banda Singh Bahadur was carried on by new warriors like Baba Deep Singh, Sardar Budh Singh, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Nawab Kapur Singh, Hari Singh Bhangi and the lion of Punjab-Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
On this day we all should celebrate and give a warm salute to the greatest Sikh warrior, Sardar Banda Singh Bahadur that ever lived who gave his life but not his beliefs.