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Appendix I - Conflict between the Bandei and the Other Khalsa

After the massacre of Banda Singh and the Sikhs at Delhi, every measure, that an active religious resentment could suggest, was taken by the Mughals, not only to destroy their power, but to extirpate the whole nation of the Sikhs. 'A royal edict,' according to Danishwar, 'was issued, ordering all who belonged to this sect to be indiscriminately put to death wherever found,' and to give effect to this mandate, a reward,' says Malcolm, 'was offered for the head of every Sikh.' Dr. M'Gregor tells us that things were then going very hard with them. In order to distinguish the Sikhs from the other inhabitants of the Punjab, all Hindus were strictly enjoined to shave their hair and beards off under pain of death, and any person found wearing them was immediately slain. Movable military columns of Abd-us-Samad Khan, Governor of Lahore, scoured the country in search and pursuit of the Sikhs who were hunted down like wild beasts. The irritated Muhammadans and the emasculated Hindus gave them no quarter. The number of those who perished must have been surprisingly great. Some of the Sikhs left the country and fled into the Shivalik Hills and the mountains to the north-east of the Punjab, or concealed themselves in remote jungles. These alone escaped the general massacre.

However, when in the beginning of the fifth year of Farrukh Siyar's reign (1130 A.H., 1718 A. D.), the attention of Abd-us­ Samad Khan was drawn towards other affairs of his government and Shahdad Khan Kheshgi was dispatched to suppress the rebellious activities of Isa Khan Manj, the Sikhs slowly and gradually crept out of their hiding places and repaired to their original homes. With the lapse of time the wild fury of Abd-us­ Samad Khan had also cooled down to some extent, and the enforcement of the royal edict for the wholesale massacre of Sikhs was now generally confined to those who were suspected of having taken active part in the rising of the Sikhs under the leadership of Banda Singh. All others were left alone to return to their villages and follow their ordinary pursuits of life.

With the return of Sikhs to their homes, there was naturally an increase in the income and prestige of the Gurdwaras or temples, particularly of the Darbar Sahib, now called the Golden Temple, of Amritsar. Since the sack of Anandpur in December, 1704, when Guru Govind Singh vacated it for the last time, it never regained its past glory.1 Apart from its ruin, it was laying in an out-of the way place, far removed from the central districts of the Punjab where the Sikh population was the thickest. The Darbar Sahib at Amritsar, situated at a central place had, on the other hand, acquired much greater sanctity. It was the first Sikh sanctuary founded by the fourth Guru, Ram Das, in 1577 A.D., and consecrated by Guru Arjan by the installation of the Holy Scripture on Bhadon Sudi 1st, 1661 Bikrami, 1604 A.D. It was here that the Akal Takht, or the Immortal Throne of Guru Har Govind was situated, from where an appeal to All-Steel had been accorded the spiritual sanction and martial spirit had been infused into the devotional frames of the Sikhs. The Bethe/hem of the Khalsa-Anandpur-therefore, came to be neglected and the Darbar Sahib of Amritsar became the central place of Sikh worship.

The increasing offerings at the Temple dazzled the eyes of some greedy exploiters, and a clamour arose for the division of income. The Khalsa would permit no such deviation from the old practice. They would not yield to the demand of those who wished to appropriate the Guru's property for their personal ends. A dissension arose and two parties were formed. The Khalsa identified the demand for division of the offerings with heresy and bracketed it, out of contempt, with the long forgotten innovation of Banda Singh. The opposite party was nick-named the Bandeis, or the followers of Banda Singh. In the party of the Bandeis, there appear to have been some sincere people who, in their heart of hearts believed in Banda Singh as a successor of Guru Govind Singh, and in everything that he did as all-truth, while others were merely adventurers and exploiters, some of whom are said to have gone• far ahead of the sincere followers in reviving the Fateh Darshan and introducing innovations which Banda Singh never seems to have dreamt of. This created resentment, and day by day, the differences between the two parties increased and no amicable settlement or compromise could be effected. The Bandeis are said to have claimed fifty percent of the income of the Darbar Sahib, while the other Khalsa2 dismissed their claim as wholly inadmissible. It was constantly feared that the arbitration of the sword might at any time be invoked by the warring factions.

When this state of affairs was brought to the notice of Mata Sundri, the widow of Guru Govind Singh, at Delhi, where she had been residing since the departure of the Guru for the Deccan, she dispatched Bhai Mani Singh with six other Sikhs for the management of the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar. During the time of the Temple was remitted to them wherever they were, and, after the death of Guru Govind Singh, it was sent to his wife at Delhi. She now enjoined that the whole of this income should, in future, be applied to running the Guru ka Langar, or a Free Kitchen for the Sikhs, and that nothing need be sent to her at Delhi.

Bhai Mani Singh and his companions arrived at Amritsar in the beginning of 1778. Bikrami, 1721 A.D. The Baisakhi Day was fast approaching and elaborate arrangements were made for the grand celebrations. Both the parties mustered strong to demonstrate their power, should an opportunity arise for it. The Khalsa established themselves at the Akal Bunga, and the Bandeis occupied a fenced enclosure near the Darshani Gate of the Darbar Sahib, at the site of the present Jhanda Bunga, where their leader, one Mahant Singh of Khem Karan, was seated on a bullock-cart, reclining on cushions. The fair was attended by a much larger number and the income from the offerings was considerable. Through the efforts and intercessions of Baba Kahan Singh, nothing untoward happened during the festival, but soon afterwards the question of the division of income was again mooted. Bhai Mani Singh feared lest the parties should come to blows and a simple quarrel should end in a bloody feud. He therefore, suggested that the question of the claims be referred to the decision of God: that two slips of paper, one with 'Wahiguru Ji ki Fateh', written on it, and the other with 'Fateh Darshan', be entrusted to the water of the sacred tank of the Darbar Sahib at the Har ki Pauri, and whosoever first rises up to the surface of the water would be deemed to have won. The suggestion was immediately taken up and two slips with the representative inscriptions- Wahiguru Ji ki Fateh for the general Khalsa and Fateh Darshan for the Bandei Khalsa,-were immersed into the water. It appeared for some time as if both the slips had conspired to remain neutral, and the two parties stood in alarming suspense. But at last, one of the slips rose to the surface. It was eagerly picked up and read. It declared WahiguruJi ki Fateh'-'Victory to God'-in favour of the general Khalsa, whose joyous ejaculations rent the air.

Most of the Bandeis sank under the weight of the shock of the divine decision against them. Some of them realized in their heart of hearts that the puritans were in the right, and, therefore, they surrendered themselves to them. But the crestfallen leader, Mahant Singh, was irritated and refused to accept the decision arrived at by this method. He sent Lahaura Singh Kalal to convey his message to the Khalsas. Baba Kahan Singh feared lest some of the puffed up Bhujangis-a name of the young Khalsa­ should raise their hands against him. He whispered a suggestion to him that a wrestling match be arranged between his (Lahaura Singh's) son Sangat Singh, and his own son Miri Singh, stipulating that the defeated party should declare in favour of the other. The wrestling began in front of the Akal Takht, and members of both the parties formed a circle round them to watch the match and its issue. It seems the Bandei Khalsa were destined to lose their ground at every step. By a stroke of fate, Sangat Singh fell flat on his back. Lahaura Singh then stood with folded hands, begged their pardon, and joined the Bhujangis.

The Khalsa were now very much emboldened. They rushed upon the disheartened Bandeis and asked them to vacate their enclosure. With the exchange of hot words, their hands went to the hilts of their swords, and, breaking through the fence, they attacked the Bandeis. The latter soon gave way to the superior number of their opponents and retired to places of safety, leaving some of their comrades dead on the spot. The fate of the Bandei leader, Mahant Singh, is not clearly recorded anywhere, but according to the Prachin Panth Prakash he seems to have perished in the scuffle. Bhai Mani Singh occupied the seat of Mahant Singh, and many of the Bandeis penitently appeared before him to be admitted into the fold of the Bhujangis. The process of purification was very simple. As the Bandeis generally insisted on their vegetarianism, a little of meat soup taken by them reclaimed them to Khalsaism. The leading among those who were thus reclaimed were Nanu Singh Dhesiawala, Kishora Singh and Shyam Singh Kalal, Bakhshish Singh of Chamiari and the grandsons of Bhai Bhagtu.

This was the last straw. From that day forward the Bandei Khalsa disappeared from the active history of the Sikh nation; they assume a quietest role with their headquarters at Dera Baba Banda Singh, in the parganah of Riasi of the Jammu State. At Dera Baba Banda Singh, which is near the village of Bhabbar on the bank of the Chinab, Banda Singh is believed to have spent mcst of his time from October, 1713 to February 1715, when, according to his desi:endants, he solemnized a second marriage with Bibi Sahib Kaur, the daughter of a Khattri of Wazirabad, of whom his second son Ranjit Singh was born. The mother and the child were here when Banda Singh was taken prisoner from Gurdas Nangal and taken to Delhi with his first wife and son, Ajai Singh, who was hacked to pieces on the 19thjune 1716. Bibi Sahib Kaur and Ranjit Singh fortunately escaped the notice of Abd-us-Samad Khan and his son Zakriya Khan Bahadur, lived in peace in the mountain recesses of Bhabbar

Notes and References

  1. 'It will be interesting to know that after its sack in December 1704, the lands of Anandpur were taken possession of by the Kahluria Raja Bhim Chand of Bilaspur. The Sodhi brothers Shyam Singh and Guiab Rai (grandsons of Baba Suraj Mall), who had left for Nahan, returned to Anandpur after some time. They purchased the old Theh from the Raja of Bilaspur for sixty thousand rupees and rebuilt the town destroyed by the enemy. Guiab Rai was a man of some Influence, and he largely helped his brother in restoring the social position of the step by step. Suffice it to say that from Nahar Singh, Udai Singh, Khem Singh and Chaur Singh, the four sons of Baba Shyam Singh, are descended the Anandpur Sodhis in four branches, known as Bari Sarkar. Dusri, Tisri and Chauthi Sarkars. [Bhai Santokh Singh, Suraj Prakash, xiv. 6365-71; Charles F. Massey, Chiefs and Families of Note, 1890, p. 331-36.]
  2. The party of the puritans has been named 'Tat Khalsa' by some writers, but it is not to be traced in the old works. It is mentioned by Gian Singh for the first time.