In a time marked by turmoil and uncertainty, Banda set on a challenging journey spanning 1,700 kilometers. 


A charismatic warrior and disciple of Guru Gobind Singh, Banda Singh Bahadur left a lasting mark on Sikh history. Ascetic, warrior, administrator - Banda Singh Bahadur's life defies easy definition. A new historical fiction explores the depths of this enigmatic figure.


The tale of bravery 

In a time marked by turmoil and uncertainty, Banda set on a challenging journey spanning 1,700 kilometers. It wasn't just a matter of distance, but a test of endurance over almost a year. Following the Guru's counsel, Banda and his companions navigated cautiously through the troubled region between Nanded and Delhi. They divided into smaller groups, strategically moving from one destination to another, regrouping every few days. Avoiding the main roads, they traversed obscure paths in the arid lands of Rajasthan, evading any encounters with Mughal representatives.

Banda and his four companions had been traveling for a long time. They finally found shelter in the ruins of an old fort, now serving as an inn. After a simple meal, they wrapped themselves in blankets and prepared for sleep. Suddenly, the sound of galloping horses woke them up. They sat up, startled. The dim light from their dying campfire illuminated their anxious faces. It was evident that the riders were authoritative figures, likely from the Mughal army. Banda glanced at his companions and smiled to reassure them:  "This is our first real test. I do not think God would have set us on this mission if he had wanted our journey to end so soon. Wrap yourselves up in your blankets again and assume the pretence of sleep. Drop this pretence only when you perceive a definite threat."


Following Banda's advice, the Sikhs stopped their horses. Suddenly, a loud voice called out the name of the serai keeper. It seemed the soldiers were regulars here. They exchanged greetings, cracked jokes, and laughed. Soon, the clinking of dishes and pouring of water signaled mealtime. Conversation paused briefly, interrupted only by the bubbling of hookahs. "So, there is nothing new in the developments in the Deccan?" the keeper inquired.


"No, there is nothing new. There is a stalemate as far as the emperor’s campaign is concerned and no fresh gains have been made. But yes, there is one piece of news that might interest you. Gobind Singh, the Guru of the Sikhs, is dead." Banda noticed the person next to him take a sudden breath. The news they heard was dreadful and would surely stir emotions among Banda's followers. Banda stayed still, hoping everyone else would too. The conversation on the speakers continued.


"But I had heard that his wound had healed and he had recovered."

"Yes. So it was said. But he was given the gift of a powerful bow. He had an obsession with weapons and could not resist trying out this wonderful new bow. It required great strength and as he drew the string, the strain became too much and his wound reopened. He bled to death. They say that even in the face of his impending death he remained as always, serene and strong, giving advice to his followers and in the end, reciting prayers."


There was a long silence and then a deep sigh. "He was a great man," said the serai keeper. "Yes, he was a great man," a soldier said without any reservation or grudge in this admiration. "May Allah have mercy on his soul."


Prayer for strength

The Sikhs were motionless, wrapped in their blankets, struck by the weight of what they had just heard. Banda, after a brief moment of shock, realized he wasn't as surprised as he should be. He felt regret for not getting a chance to say goodbye, but recalling his last meeting, he understood it had been a farewell in disguise. Banda prayed for the strength to endure this loss and fulfill his Guru's trust. As he prayed, a sense of stillness returned, bringing with it renewed strength and confidence.


It took the group four days to accept that their Guru was no longer with them. All thirty-one Sikhs gathered at the agreed meeting spot after four days. Banda and his group were the last to arrive; everyone else had been waiting for them. The others had patiently waited for their arrival. As they met, they exchanged subdued greetings and then settled into a solemn silence. Banda broke the silence, and said that it is the will of God. He emphasized the importance of accepting the loss with grace, stating that they would fail their Guru if they did not. Looking at each of the five senior leaders, he admired the wisdom in their selection. He noticed the same fierce determination in their eyes that they had shown when entrusted with their responsibilities by the Guru.


"The circumstances have changed and with this change some rethinking is required. The Khalsa must decide how the loss of our Guru is to affect the course of action that we must now pursue."


Binod Singh cleared his throat and addressed his friends with a determined yet gentle tone. He recognized the dwindling spirits among them and sought to bolster their confidence. He expressed that the loss of Guru marked a significant change in their lives but they had to remain true to their mission. Binod emphasized that their allegiance to their Guru requires them to shoulder the responsibility bestowed upon them. He urged them to step forward and engage in the battles ahead, now under new leadership. Also, he said that Banda Singh Bahadur has been appointed by the Guru to lead them, and added, “You must take charge in the coming battles as the commander of the Sikh forces."


Carrying forward a dream

Banda acknowledged the weighty responsibility bestowed upon him by the Guru, expressing his acceptance with pride. He echoed the sentiments expressed by Bhai Binod Singh, acknowledging the profound sadness felt by all. Despite their grief, they recognized their duty: to fulfill the Guru's vision of equality and freedom from oppression in Punjab. This commitment, Banda emphasized, was the truest expression of their devotion to their Guru. As they gathered, they discussed their experiences and devised strategies for the journey ahead. Two followers were designated to carry personal letters from Banda to Sikhs in Majha and Doab, urging them to prepare for the impending fulfillment of the Guru's directives.


Based on an excerpt from the book- First Raj of the Sikhs: Life and Times of Banda Singh Bahadur by Harish Dhillon

This book aims to share the story of an extraordinary and courageous man and his remarkable accomplishments. It is possibly the finest biography of Banda Singh Bahadur. 


*Based on an article by Harish Dhillon published in Tribune on 30th May 2013


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