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The Sikh community, known for its rich history and vibrant culture, has been marked by remarkable people who have shaped its narrative. Among these luminaries stands Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, a revered Sikh general renowned for establishing Sikh rule across vast expanses of Punjab. Born Lachhman Das to Rajput parents, his transformation from a fervent hunter to a devout bairagi sadhu epitomizes the profound shifts that define his extraordinary life.

Who was Baba Banda Singh Bahadur?

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, born in 1670 in Rajouri to a Rajput family, stands as a pivotal figure in Sikh military history. He spearheaded the first Sikh offensive war against the Mughal rulers, expanding Sikh territory and defending India with remarkable bravery. He embraced the path of a bairagi sadhu before embarking on his journey for national awakening and liberation from Mughal oppression. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur's legacy echoes through time as he instilled in Indians the spirit of resistance and the vision of establishing independent rule, laying the groundwork for the eventual independence of India.

The story 

 Baba Banda Singh Bahadur once encountered a pregnant deer during a hunt. Tragically, the dying creature gave birth to two offsprings before his eyes, only for them to perish soon after. This heart-wrenching event shook Lachhman to his core, leading him to renounce the world and become a sadhu. He became a disciple of many none could ease the turmoil within him. Eventually, he turned to tantric sadhus, delving into their teachings and gaining mystical powers known as riddhis and siddhis. His mastery of these abilities made him a revered figure among the locals residing near his ashram on the banks of the river Godavari.

 Though, none benefitted from his powers, he used them to humiliate religious leaders and other saints who ever happened to visit his ashram. Whenever any such saint visited, he would make their beds flip over using his powers.

 Guru Gobind Singh after leaving Punjab traveled towards South India along with some Sikhs, visited Lachhman Das’s ashram and sat on his cot in his absence. 

 Accepting defeat, Lachhman Das Bairagi fell at the feet of Guru Gobind Singh and sought forgiveness and said, “O, Guru Ji, I am your Banda (Slave). Show me the right path.”

 Guru Gobind Singh taught him the basic principles of Sikhsim and baptised him. Lachhman was given the name ‘Banda Singh’. He transformed from a proud bairagi to a humble and brave Sikh of Guru.

 Banda Singh mission in Punjab 

The Guru sent  Banda Singh to Punjab with a clear mission: to hold the ruthless rulers of the era accountable for their actions. Accompanied by five courageous Sikhs as advisors and armed with necessary weapons, Banda Singh embarked on his task. Swiftly, he garnered the support of thousands of Sikhs in his campaign against the oppressive rulers. Under Banda Singh's guidance, the Sikhs swiftly ended the reign of numerous tyrants, including Nawab Wazir Khan, who was responsible for the tragic demise of Guru Gobind Singh's younger sons. 

Banda Singh's efforts resulted in the capture of a significant portion of Punjab, establishing Sikh authority in the region. He even minted coins in honour of Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh. However, the ascension of Faruksiyar as the emperor of Delhi brought new challenges. Enraged by Banda Singh's successes, Faruksiyar mobilized a considerable force from Delhi and other parts of Punjab to crush and capture him.

 In the fortress of Gurdas Nagal, Sikhs faced a large number of Mughal forces. Banda Singh led them in a valiant fight. However, their rations ran low, weakening their ability to resist.

After eight months, brave Banda Singh Bahadur and seven hundred Sikh soldiers were captured and taken to Delhi. They survived inside the fortress by eating leaves and tree bark. In Delhi, they endured humiliation, paraded through its markets. The Mughals offered them amnesty if they converted to Islam. Yet, not one Sikh abandoned their faith. Instead, they endured torture and public execution.

 After enduring a three-month ordeal, Baba Banda Singh was subjected to one of the most brutal executions recorded in history on June 9, 1716.Banda Singh’s four-year-old son, Ajai Singh, was brutally killed before him, with his liver forced into his mouth. Despite the horrors, Banda remained remarkably composed, unyielding in his resolve. His tormentors, resorting to merciless methods, gradually tore his flesh with hot pincers, gouged out his eyes, and severed his feet.

Following Banda's martyrdom, new leaders emerged in the Khalsa, including Baba Deep Singh, Nawab Kapur Singh, Chhajja Singh, Bhuma Singh, Hari Singh Dhillon, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Budh Singh, Naudh Singh, Charhat Singh Sukerchakia, and others. In just ninety years, Maharaja Ranjit Singh established the Sikh kingdom, carrying forward the legacy of those who had sacrificed everything for their beliefs.

Banda Singh holds an immortal place in Sikh history. His fame extends beyond the Sikh community, especially in Bengal. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore penned a poem called 'Bandi Bir' or ‘The Captive Brave’chronicles the courageous acts of Sardar Banda Singh Bahadur during his uprising against the Mughal Empire and his eventual martyrdom. In this poem, agore upholds that the seeming defeat of the Sikhs was a victory in the test of history. He highlights the victory of Sikh spirituality over the brute force they faced. The poem's opening and closing lines, written in Bengali, resonate deeply. Let's explore some excerpts and their translations.

 

Pancha nadir tirey

Beni pakaiya shirey

Dekhite dekhite Gurur mantre

Jagiya uthhechhe Sikh

Nirmam, nirbhik.

Hajar konthe Gurujir Joy

Dhoniya tulechhey dik

Nutan jagiya Sikh

Nutan ushaar Surjer paane

Chahilo nirnimikh.

.......

 

Sabha holo nistabdha

Banda'r deho chhinrilo ghaatak

Shanraashi koriya dagdha

Sthir hoye Bir morilo

Na kori ekti katar shabda.

Darshak-jan mudilo nayan

Sabha holo nistabdha.

 

Here is translation of the above mentioned poem: 

 

The Mughals and Sikhs together kicked up

the dust of Delhi thoroughfares;

Who will offer his life first?

There was a rush to settle this;

In the morning hundreds of heroes

offered heads to the executioner,

calling "Glory be to Guruji";

 

The Kazi put into Banda's lap one of his sons;

Said... must kill him with own hands;

Without hesitation, saying nothing,

slowly Banda pulled the child on his breast;

Then slowly drawing the knife from the belt, looking at the boy's face,whispered

"Glory be to Guruji", in the boy's ears.

The young face beamed;

The court room shook as the boy sang,

"Glory be to Guruji;"

Banda then threw the left arm around his neck

and with the right plunged the knife into the boy's breast;

The boy dropped on the ground,

smiling, saying "Glory be to Guruji".

The court was dead silent.

The executioner tore apart Banda's body

with a pair of red-hot tongs;

Standing still the hero died,

not uttering a sound of agony;

The audience closed their eyes;

The court was dead silent.

*Based on an article by Sukhpal Kaur, published in 26th June 2012

 

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