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Emperor Bahadur Shah's March Against the Sikhs

The first news of the Sikhs outbreak under the leadership of Banda Singh was received by Emperor Bahadur Shah on the 2nd Rabi-ul-Sani 1122 A. H. 30th May, 1710, near Ajmer, on his return from the Deccan after a successful expedition against his younger brother Muhammad Kam Bakhsh.1 He had come to Rajputana to reduce the refractory chiefs Raja Jai Singh Kachhwahya and Raja Ajit Singh son of Jaswant Singh Rathor.2 The alarming news from the Punjab changed the situation. The dispatches of Asaf-ud-Daula Asad Khan3 and the reports of various news-writers,4 which were couched in a most hyperbolical language, invited the Emperor's immediate attention to affairs in the north. Added to these were the loud cries of the Muslim inhabitants of Sirhind and Thanesar, and the Peerzadas of Samana and Sadhaura, thousands of whom waited upon him at Ajmer on or about the 22nd of June 1710. The Emperor was moved by the pitiable entreaties and decided to march northwards. 'It was seen that a popular rising, such as that of the Sikhs, in a part of the Empire so near the capital, might have much more serious and far-reaching consequences than the pending quarrel with the Rajputs, who, even if left in quiet possession of their hereditary country, were not likely to be encouraged to further aggression.' He resolved, therefore, to lay aside, for the present, the design of subduing the Rajputs and confirmed them in their allegiance by conniving at their offences, till a more favourable opportunity presented itself.5

A difference of opinion at this time arose between the Emperor and his Wazir Munim Khan. The latter represented that it was below the dignity of 'such a glorious monarch' to march in person against such insignificant rebels, as he thought the Sikhs to be, and offered to 'bind himself by solemn oaths to be answerable for the capture of Banda Singh. 'Yet His Majesty, the defender of faith, thought it his duty', as lradat Khan tells us, 'to avail himself of the chance of leading a Jehad (a holy war) against them [the Sikhs] in person, copying the example of Alamgir, who, in the later part of his reign, appeared at the siege of every fort belonging to the unbelievers.'6

Bahadur Shah dispatched urgent orders to Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf-ud-Daula Asad Khan, Governor of Delhi, and Wakil-i­ Mutliq to mobilize an army for an immediate advance against the Sikhs, and called upon Khan Dauran, Subedar of Oudh, Muhammad Amin Khan Chin Bahadur, Faujdar of Moradabad, Khan Jahan, Nazim of Allahabad and Sayyed Abdulla Khan of Barba to join him in the projected expedition. The Emperor himself quitted Ajmer at the same time on 27th of June, 1710 and marched towards the Punjab, accompanied by Chatar Sal Bundela and other nobles.

On the 15th of Jamadi-ul-Awal 1122, 11th July, 1710, the report of Jalal Khan regarding the Sikh invasion of his territory was received and on the 22nd (July 18th), Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan was appointed to fill the vacancy of the Faujdar of Sirhind caused by the death of Wazir Khan. The Imperial army arrived at the village of Pragpur on the 12th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir, 7th August, when an advance force was dispatched against the Sikhs under the command of Firoz Khan Mewati, the dismissed Faujdar of Sambhar, Sultan Quli Khan, a nephew of Rustam Oil Khan, Shakar Khan and others; and an advance of fifty thousand rupees was made to the Mawati towards the payment of the Sehbandi irregulars. At this time Muhammad Amin Khan Chin Bahadur and Qamar-ud-din Khan arrived from Moradabad, and on the 27th Jamadi-ul-Akhar 1122, 22nd August 1710, another force was sent off under Sayyed Wajih-ud-din Khan of Barba. To guard against desertions, a proclamation was issued on the 29th Jamadi-ul-Akhir, 24th August, and was announced, by beat of drum, in the royal camp and in the city of Delhi, that no one was allowed to visit the capital without permission, nor were any one's relations allowed to come to the camp. On the 1st Rajab, 25th August, Kokaltash Khan was sent to take charge of the administration of the parganah of Sonepat, which formed the jagir of the eldest son of the Emperor. The camp moved on slowly towards Sonepat where they arrived on the 29th of Shaban, 1122 (22nd October, 1710).

In the meantime, fearing lest there should be any disguised Sikhs among the bearded Hindus in the royal camp, an order was issued on the 15th Rajah (8th September, 1710), for 'all Hindus employed in the Imperial offices to shave off their beards'. There was no Sikh at all in the whole establishment, and the Hindu Peshkars and Diwans submissively obeyed the royal order, shaved off their beards and received from the Emperor khi/ats for their implicit obedience and loyal service.

Sayyed Saif-ud-din Ali Khan, Najam-ud-din Ali Khan and Siraj-ud-din Ali Khan came in on the 17th Rajah, 10th September, 1710, and joined the camp at Patodhi, and Churaman Jat arrived when the camp was near Delhi. At Sonepat, on the 4th Ramzan (26th October), was received the news of the battle of Rabon fought on the 19th of Shaban (12th of October, 1710), and on the 8th Ramzan (30th October) near Serai. Kanwar Rustamdi Khan conveyed the news of the victory of Amingarh (4th Ramzan, 26th October), gained by Firoz Khan Mewati, and presented 300 heads of the Sikhs killed in that battle. In recognition of his services Firoz Khan was rewarded with the Faujdari of Sirhind and a lac of rupees were remitted to him on the 13th Ramzan (4th November) for general expenses. The Sikhs had also been driven from Thanesar and, on receipt of this information on the 18th Ramzan (9th November), the Emperor desired that an expeditionary force of sixty thousand horse should be got ready, placing thirty-one thousand horse under the cammand of the eldest prince Muazz-ud-din Jahandar Shah, eleven thousand horse under the other three princes, eleven thousand under Jamdat-ul-Mulk and seven thousand horse under Mahabat Khan. Passing through Kamal (20th Ramzan, 11th November), Azamabad also called Tirvari-Alamgirpur (22nd Ramzan, 13th November) Thanesar (28the Ramzan, 19th November), and Shahabad, the Emperor encamped at the village of Okala on the 6th Shawwal, 1122 (27th November, 1710). Here news were brought that three thousand Sikh horse and two thousand foot were entrenched on his side of Sadhaura and that a large number of them had retreated into the fort of Sirhind after a fight with Umar Khan and Bayzid Khan Afghans in the Garden of Yaqub Khan. Muhammad Amin Khan Chin Bahadur was ordered to undertaken the siege of Sirhind and the Emperor himself moved his camp to Sadhaura where he arrived on the 13th Shawwal, 1122 (4th December, 1710). It was here that cart-loads of 300 heads of the Sikhs, killed in the battle of Sirhind fought a few days, earlier, flags, colours and rockets--Jhanda-o-Nishan-o­ Ban-were received from Shamas Khan.7

Leaving the Emperor encamped at Sadhaura, let us now follow the advance-force sent under the command of Firoz Khan Mewati on the 12th Jamadi-ul-Akhir, 1122, 7th August, 1710, with orders 'to destroy the thanas established by the enemy, to reestablish the Imperial posts, and to restore the impoverished people of Shahabad, Mustafabad, Sadhaura and other old seats of population plundered and occupied by the enemy.'8 The Sikhs, as we know, had occupied the territory as far as Panipat. Bayzid Khan Kheshgi of Qasur, whose meritorious services in the Deccan had been rewarded by the Emperor with the Faujdari of Jammu, dared not a collision with the Sikhs and was, therefore, lying near Panipat for the last two or three months. On the appearance of the Imperial force under Firoz Khan, Bayzid Khan joined him and marched in his train towards the north.

The Sikh forces at this time were distributed all over the country in garrisons and detachments. The main force under Banda Singh and his leading officers had only a few days before, marched from the Gangetic Doab against Shamas Khan of Sultanpur. The remaining force was divided into small detachments and detailed for duty at Sirhind, Samana, Thanesar, Sadhaura, etc. Many were busy in their own ilaqas in the Majha, the Riarki and the Jullundur Doab. It was reserved, therefore, for Baba Binod Singh and Ram Singh alone to bear the brunt of the battle with the Imperial forces, who came as far as the village of Amingarh near Tirawri on the 4th Ramzan, 1122, 26th October, 1710. The neighbourhood of Tirawri was studded with thick Chhichhra (Butea Frondosa) bushes. When the army came within the range of Sikh muskets, they fired a volley. The battle began in right earnest and the repeated attacks of the Sikhs upon the advance-line of Mahabat Khan, son of Khan-i-Khanan Munim Khan, threw his soldiers off their feet. Mahabat Khan behaved in a most cowardly manner 'unworthy of his father's station and his own', and was driven back with heavy losses.9

Firoz Khan Mewati was very much perturbed over the precarious condition of the battle and became desperate. He called the Barba Sayyeds to his side. They all got down from their horses and advanced sword in hand. There was a great slaughter on both sides and Firoze Khan lost all hopes of success. But shortage of men was a great disadvantages to the Sikhs and it turned the scales against them. They were outnumbered by the Imperial forces and the battle was lost to them. The infuriated Muhammadans fell upon the dead and dying and treated them with every indignity. Cart-loads of three hundred of their heads were sent to the Emperor and many others were hung by their long hair upon the trees on both sides of the Grand Trunk Road.

On receipt of the news of the victory at Amingarh, the Emperor rewarded Firoz Khan Mewati with the Faujdari of Sirhind and despatched six dresses of honour for him and his allies on the 8th Ramzan, 1122, 30th October, 1710. The Sikhs had retired upon Thanesar, but, as no reinforcement could be expected from any place, they retreated, after a small fight, towards Sadhaura to fall back upon the fort of Lohgarh, if necessary.

On the Emperor's arrival at Azamabad-Tirawri (also known as Alamgirpur), on the 22nd Ramzan, Rustamdil Khan presented to him a gold studded parasol that had fallen into Firoz Khan's hands at Thanesar and informed him that Firoz Khan had moved from Thanesar towards Shahabad in pursuit of the Sikhs.

While Firoz Khan Mewati was busy with the Sikhs, Bayzid Khan Kheshgi pushed on towards the north. Shamas Khan, on the other hand, was also encouraged by the Emperor's march against the Sikhs and the return of his own uncle Bayzid Khan. He collected a large host of villagers from the Bist Jullundur Doab and marched upon Sirhind. The combined forces of Bayzid Khan, Shamas and Umar Khan encountered the Sikhs in the garden of Yaqub Khan. Baj Singh, the Governor of Sirhind, was then absent on some expeditions. His brother Sukha Singh, and Sham Singh offered a bold front, but they were outnumbered and the death of Sukha Singh, at a time when the result on the battle hung in the balance, compelled them to retire upon the fort of Sirhind.

On receipt of this news by the Emperor at Okala on the 6th Shawwal, 1122 (27 November, 1710), Muhammad Amin Khan Chin Bahadur was ordered to move upon Sirhind by forced marches and lay siege to the fort. But before his arrival there, the fort had fallen into the hands of Shamas Khan and he had dispatched 300 heads of the Sikhs, killed in battle, and some colours and rockets to the Emperor, which were received at Sadhaura on the 13th Shawwal, 1122. The loss of his opportunity for gaining credit for the capture of Sirhind perturbed Muhammad Amin Khan very much, and he became an avowed enemy of Shamas Khan. He reported to the Emperor that Shamas Khan had collected a large force with evil intentions, and that his movements were not without danger to the peace of the country. Poor Shamas Khan, against all hopes of being raised to a higher rank, was treated most ungratefully. He was dismissed from the Faujdari of Doaba Bist Jullundur,10 and Isa Khan Manj was appointed to take his place with the rank of 1500 zat, 1000 horse.11

Notes and References

  1. Kamwar Khan, Tazkirat-us-Salatin, 150 a; Irvine, i. 104.
  2. When Bahadur Shah was marching into the Deccan against his brother Kam Bakhsh, Rajas Jai Singh Kachhwahya and Ajit Singh Rathor had escaped from his camp near Mandeshwar on April 30th, 1708, and had entered into an alliance with Raja Amar Singh of Udaipur to resist the Mughal authorities in Rajputana. The Imperialists sustained heavy losses in the bloody contests that followed, and the Emperor was driven to the necessity of adopting conciliatory measures to pacify the disturbances in the neighbourhood of the capital at a time when greater portion of the Imperial forces was employed in the far south. On his return from the expedition he thought of availing himself of the opportunity to reduce these insurrectory chiefs. with this object in view he marched into Rajputana, and on the 15th May, 1710, his army was encamped at Dandwa Serai on the banks of the Banas, 30 kos from Ajmer. The negotiations began and the letters of the 'Chiefmen' of the Rajahs were presented on the 22nd. On the 26th May, the Imperial camp and the army reached Toda. It was in these days that the first news of the Sikh outbreak in the Punjab was brought to the Emperor on the 30th of May, 1710, N.S.
  3. According to .Dastur-ul-Insha, 5b, Yar Muhammad Khan was then the Subedar of Shahjahanabad.
  4. Tajdin Diwan, Hafiz Khan Diwan, Hassan Raza Kotwal, Fakhar-ud-din Bakhshi, Muhammad Tahir and Darwesh Muhammad Qazi-Tarikh-i­ Muhammad shahi, 121b--122a.
  5. Kamwar Khan, Tazkirat-us-Salatin, 150 b: Muhammad Qasim, Ibrat Namah, 24: Dastur-ul-Insha, 5 b; Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, i. 80; Latif, History of the Punjab, 276: Memoirs of lradat Khan, 61.
  6. Also see Mirat-i-Aftab Numa, 366b; Mirat-i-Waridat, 119 a; Ali Muhammad. Tarikh-i-Muzaffari, 85 a; Later Mughals, i. 105.
  7. Kamwar, Tazkirat-us-Salatin, 150b-153b.
  8. Khafi Khan, ii. 669; Elliot, vii. 423.
  9. Qasirn, Ibrat Namah, 24; Karam Singh, Banda Bahadur, 129.
  10. Maasir-ul-Umra. iii. 128.
  11. Kamwar Khan, Tazkirat-us-Salatin. 157 b.