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Samana and Sadhaura

In a few months Banda Singh found himself at the head of a considerable number of crusaders, eager 'to win the crown of victory or to drink the cup of martyrdom'. Ali Singh and Mali Singh, who had joined his camp with some more Sikhs after their escape from the prison of Sirhind, represented to him, one day, that he should hasten his operations, as all those Sikhs, who could be expected to join him, had already done so. Banda Singh replied that he was waiting for some who had been specially summoned, and who were coming from great distances. At last it was decided to commence the operations, and, with five hundred of his followers, he marched upon the town of Sonepat.1

Sonepat is one of the oldest towns, and was then strong enough to successfully withstand, for some time, an attack of a much greater force than that of Banda Singh. But its Faujdar had seen and heard so much of Sikh bravery that cowardice overpowered his valour and he sank down under the weight of fright. He came ill-prepared to oppose the advancing Sikhs, and they so boldly rushed upon his half-hearted levies that in an instant he was routed and made to flee towards Delhi.2

Samana was the object of Banda Singh's next attack. He was in the neighbourhood of Kaithal, on his way, when he was informed that a small military detachment escorting a treasure of the revenue collections of these districts was halting at the village of Bhuna, on their way to the Imperial capital. Banda Singh was not the man to miss such a golden opportunity. Immediately he hiked to the village, fell like a thunderbolt, upon the Mughal force guarding the treasure and took possession of it without much opposition. The raid of Banda Singh on the Imperial treasury was reported to the Amil of Kaithal, a Hindu, who at once hurried to the spot with a troop of cavalry and mounted constabulary. Banda Singh and his men, who were mostly on foot, had, in the meantime, hidden themselves behind some old walls, looking for a favourable opportunity. When they saw that they could successfully surprise the enemy, they rushed out of the hiding place, lept at their horses, and, in the confusion that followed, threw many of them off their saddles. The Amil was captured and his constabulary took to their heels. He was, however, released on the condition of making over all his horses to the Sikhs, to which he readily agreed. He was further allowed to retain his office on behalf of the Khalsa on payment of tribute, and a detachment was detailed with him for the collection of revenue. The gallant Banda Singh freely distributed the booty among his followers who were all convinced of the unselfishness of their heroic leader.3

Banda Singh and his Sikhs were greatly encouraged by these small but successful beginnings. They now boldly marched upon the hated town of Samana, the residence of Sayyed Jalal­ ud-din, the executioner of Guru Tegh Bahadur, and of Shashal Beg and Bashal Beg, the executioners of the younger sons of Guru Govind Singh at Sirhind.4 Samana was one of the richest towns in these districts and was expected to yield a booty large enough to free them from the anxiety of enormous expenses required to equip them for their future military operations. The town was mostly inhabited by high-placed Sayyads and Mughals. Twenty-two among them were Amirs of high rank who were allowed to move about in palanquins. It was well-fortified by a strong wall, and every haveli within was a fortress in itself. The Faujdar of Samana, it appears, was confident that he could repulse the attack of any enemy outside the city walls, and that, even if besieged, the impregnability of his fortifications would force the enemy to raise the siege and retire. He paid no attention, therefore, to the rumours of an attack by the Sikhs, whose levies, he thought, were too raw to stand against his brave and disciplined soldiers. But he was soon disillusioned, when on the morning of 26th November, 17095, Banda Singh and his men suddenly rushed upon the town from a distance of about ten kos and entered it from all sides before the gates could be closed against them.

For hours there was regular sanguinary fighting in the streets and bazaars of the town, and 'pools of blood flowed through its drains'. While the Sikhs were busy sacking the houses of Sayyed Jalal-ud-din, and of Shashal Beg and Bashal Beg, and searching for the treasures of the Faujdar and the Mughal Amirs, the plunderers, who were following the force of Banda Singh merely for booty, were busy in their own trade. Many of the nobles shut themselves up in their strong and fortress-like havelis, but they could not hold out for long against the desperate and infuriated peasantry of the neighbouring villages, who availed themselves of this opportunity to wreak vengeance upon their personal enemies and set fire to their houses. The Sikhs, during the last one hundred years, had been subjected to innumerable persecutions and indignities at the hands of the Muhammadan rulers and officials. They were, therefore, naturally enraged against them and 'vied with one another in massacring them, some with a view to avenging their wrongs, others with the object of punishing the tyrants'. Thus, before nightfall,6 the beautiful town of Samana, with its palatial buildings, was converted into a heap of ruins, never to regain its past glory.7 Ten thousand lives are said to have been lost,8 the majority among them being Mughals. Those who remained left this place for ever.

Banda Singh was very much impressed by the invincible spirit and bravery of Bhai Fateh Singh, who rightly deserved the credit given to him for his distinguished service in this first important victory. He was appointed the Faujdar of this place,9 with its nine dependent parganahs. Although Kaithal had also been formally conquered, Samana has generally been called by historians the first regular conquest of Banda Singh. He richly rewarded one and all of his followers with his accustomed liberality. As Banda Singh had not yet adopted the regular method of paying fixed monthly salaries, each and every member of the Sikh army, it is said, received, as his share of booty, sufficient money to live upon for many days to come, while the surplus added much to the resources of the conqueror for his future expeditions.

Wazir Khan of Sirhind was much alarmed to hear of the Sikh invasion and the occupation of Samana. The very thought of what would be the fate of Sirhind on the arrival of Banda Singh and his Sikhs, of which the rumours were so strong, shook his whole frame. But, with all this, he was concerting every possible precautionary measure to avoid this catastrophe, and was collecting every bit of information about the military strength and resources of the Sikhs. He sent his spies to Samana for the purpose. Banda Singh, on the other hand, was not less vigilant, and when information was brought to him about the spies in the bazaar, he ordered them to be brought before him. One of them was without an eye and the other without a hand. Both of them were given a terrible shoe-beating, and were then sent away with a message for Wazir Khan, asking him to get ready to meet the advancing Khalsa like a brave soldier.10

Banda Singh did not stay there for more than a few days. He intended to go to Sirhind as soon as possible. But he knew he was not strong enough to risk a battle with a much greater force of the Faujdar, far better equipped and provisioned. Wazir Khan possessed a long train of field artillery,11 consisting of heavy guns and zambooraks, and his city was well-fortified. The Sikhs, on the other hand, were only equipped with swords and spears, the number of match-lock men among them being hopelessly small. To provide the Sikhs with all the necessary implements of war with such limited resources when he was surrounded by enemies on all sides, was out of question. His success, he thought, mostly depended upon the increase of his strength in men, brave and self-sacrificing like the heroes of Chamkaur. This could only be effected on the arrival of the Majha and the Doaba Sikhs from across the Sutlej where they were held up by the Maler Kotla and Rupar detachments. Moreover, the leading Sikhs who had accompanied him from the Deccan, particularly the council of five, belonged to the Majha. Naturally, therefore, they wished that their kith and kin, who had come so far as the banks of the Sutlej, in obedience to the Guru's call, should also have the honour of participating in the holy war proclaimed against the century-old enemies of their faith and people, and also in the plunder of the condemned city of Sirhind. With this object in view, Banda Singh set out in the eastern direction towards Kiratpur by a long circuitour route.

The first place that offered any resistance to the progress of Banda Singh was Ghuram.12 It belonged to the Pathans, who came out to give him battle, but they could not stand against the conquerors of Kaithal and Samana and were soon put to flight. The town was laid waste and plundered, and was annexed to the territories of Bhai Fateh Singh.

Passing through Thaska, which surrendered to the conquerors without offering any resistance, he attacked the town of Shahabad. It was a populous town inhabited by the Mughals, Sayyads and Shaikhs, but none dared oppose him. The ruler of the place shut himself up in his fortress-like Serai to the south of the town. His resistance was strong but it could not stand the valour of the Sikhs, and the town fell an easy prey to them.13

From here Banda Singh moved in the northeasterly direction.14 When he arrived in the neighbourhood of Mustafabad, the inhabitants were very much alarmed. They appealed to the local Faujdar for protection. He had two thousand Imperial troops under arms and ready for any emergency. These were dispatched with two large guns. On the appearance of artillery, 'many of the mercenary troops and gangs of plunderers, who followed Banda Singh merely with the prospect of booty, deserted him'. But the desertion in no way affected him. He encouraged and rallied his brave Sikhs 'and made so successful a defence that the Muhammadans all fled, leaving their cannon behind them. After this victory, several of the deserters returned and joined Banda's army,' with the prospect of loot, and subjected the town to a rapacious plunder.15

Banda Singh was moving towards Sadhaura when his attention was drawn towards the zullum, which the people of the neighbourhood were subjected to at the hands of Qadam-ud-din, the ruler of Kapuri. He was a son of Amanullah, who had been the governor of Gujerat during the time of Aurangzeb and had amassed tons of money. The ill-gotten wealth of the father spoiled the life of the son, who soon showed himself to be a veritable beast. Stories of his proverbial profligacies are still current in Kapuri and its neighbourhood after over two centuries and a quarter. There was hardly a handsome Hindu woman whose chastity had not been attacked by this depraved ruler by his force of arms. His sowars prowled over the territory, waylaying Hindu marriage parties and snatching away the new brides for the midnight revelries of their lustful master. His woman-hunting expeditions were not confined to his own territories, but, according to a story of the Shahwani Sayyeds of Sadhaura, he is said to have forcibly carried away a Sikh woman from the city of Amritsar, entering her house in the disguise of a Sikh. It is not improbable that the story might have been manufactured by some clever Sayyed after the Sikh attack of Kapuri, but there is no denying the fact that Qadam-ud-din was a terror to all non-Muslims of the ilaqa. This was more than a Sikh like Banda Singh, who was now every moment receiving complaints from the people from all sides, could tolerate. Banda Singh, therefore, decided to attend to no other business till he had properly chastised the ruler of Kapuri. On his way from Mustafabad, he spent a night at the village of Dalaur, four kos from Sadhaura on the Barara road, to avail himself of the local knowledge of the Lubana merchants. Early in the morning next day the Sikhs fell upon Kapuri, overpowered the resistance offered, and set fire to the strongholds of Qadam-ud-din's debaucheries, scattering his immortalizing wealth to the four winds. There is nothing on record to show what befell Qadam­ ud-din himself, but in all probability he perished in the general conflagration.16

Banda Singh's next expedition was against Sadhaura. Its ruler Osman Khan was notorious for the oppression of his subjects. He was the same man who had tortured to death the great Muslim saint, Sayyed Badar-ud-din Shah, popularly known as Sayyed Budhu Shah, simply because he had helped Guru Govind Singh in the battle of Bhangani. The Hindus of this place were subjected to every kind of indignity. Even their dead were not allowed to be burnt. It was generally believed that the dead body of a Hindu, which passed by the mausoleum of Qutab-ul-Aqtab, was not consumed by fire,17 and, as there was no way out other than that by the mausoleum, most of the Hindus of the Shahwani quarter had left the town in disgust. As the Hindus were the only people persecuted by the Muhammadans and the Sikhs would willingly respond to their call for protection. Banda Singh and his companions were now everywhere appealed to as 'the defenders of the faith'. The Hindus complained to him that the Muhammadans 'slaughter cows in our lanes and streets, nay before our very houses and leave their blood and entrails there; they do not permit the Hindus to perform their religious ceremonies.' He was much enraged at this high-handedness and ordered the attack of Sadhaura.

Sadhaura is said to be the corrupted form of Sadhu-wara, or the place of Sadhus, which in the days of Buddhist ascendency was one of their holy places. It was for some time residence of the Tusi Pathans, who were driven out from here by Sayyed Nizam-ud-din of Siyana in the Kamal District, and in the same year, when Sayyed Khizar Khan ascended the throne of Delhi in 1414, he included it in the Jagir of sixty thousand given to Nizam­ ud-din. The mausoleums of Ganj-i-Ilam and Qutab-ul-Aqtab belonged to his second son Shah Abdul Hamid, and his grandson Shah Abdul Wahab, who were known by these popular titles. It was about the latter that the superstition stated above was current. Shah Badar-ud-din (Budhu Shah) was the ninth in succession to Nizam-ud-din.

With the advance of Banda Singh and the Sikhs upon Sadhaura, the aggrieved peasantry and many others of the neighbourhood, who were only waiting for a favourable chance for rising, swelled the number of the invaders and rushed into the town. The angry mob, uncontrollable even by Banda Singh, set fire to the mausoleum of Qutab-ul-Aqtab, and a bloody battle ensued in the streets. The frightened Sayyeds and Shaikhs had taken shelter in the have/i of Shah Badar-ud-din, probably on the presumption that, as the martyred Sayyed had been a friend of the late Guru Govind Singh, the Sikhs might spare their lives. But the Sikhs were powerless. They were comparatively small in number and unknown to the place. It was mostly the infuriated peasantry, inspired by a spirit of revenge against their persecutors, that worked havoc here as elsewhere. They had been silently and helplessly suffering under the oppressions of these people for years, and now, when their chance came, nothing short of a wholesale massacre could satisfy them. All the inmates of the haveIi were indiscriminately put to the sword, and, on this account, the place is up to this day called the Qatalgarhi or Slaughter-house.18

There is nothing on record, even in the Muslim histories, to support the exaggerated statements of the Shamsher Khalsa and the Prachin Panth Prakash about the desecration of the graves of Pirs, exhumation of the dead and their consignment to the flames. The fact is that the mausoleums of Ganj-i-Ilam and Qutab-ul-Aqtab stand to the present day in the same condition in which they stood before the invasion of Banda Singh. The latter was only slightly smoked as a result of the fire set to it by the revengeful and infuriated mob.

Notes and References

  1. Situated, 29"N. and 77°1' E. on the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka Railway, 28 miles north of Delhi.
  2. Irvine, Later Mughals, I. 94.
  3. Shamsher Khalsa. 4; Sadhu Govind Singh, ltihas Guru Khalsa, 450; Narang, Transformation o/ Sikhism, 105.

Bhai Rattan Singh places this conflict with the 'Faujdar' of Kaithal in the territory of Bagar, and in a different manner, after the tussle of Banda Singh with the gang of robbers. But this is improbable. The Jurisdiction of the Parganah of Kaithal never extended as far as the west and the south-west of the Parganah of Kharkhauda.

  1. Daulat Rai, Banda Bahadur, 24; Narang, Transformation of Sikhism, 105; Sohan Singh, Banda Bahadur, 46. According to the Prachin Panth Prakash,

"When Wazir Khan of Sirhind enacted that dreadful scene [of murdering Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh], those [the officials] of Samana were also with him." Rattan Singh, P. 102, Dohra xxii.] And, according to Sohan Singh, some of the Mughals of Samana "were quite directly interested in the persecution and murder of the two younger sons of the 10th Guru." [p. 46.]

  1. Gyan Singh, Shamsher Khalsa, p. 5, and Sadhu Govind Singh, ltihas Guru Khalsa, p. 421, have placed the attack on Sadhaura on 11th of Maghar or Marga-Shirsha, 1764 (about 26th November, 1707), and on Samana on Phalgun Vadi 5th, I 764. As according to most of the authorities, including the above writers, the attack on Samana took place before that on Sadhaura, I am inclined to believe that the date of the former has been erroneously ascribed the latter and vice versa. The dates and months may be right, but the year 1764 Bikrami, 1707 or 1708 A.D., as given in Phulkian States Gazeteer (1904 Edition), p. 205, is decidedly wrong.
  2. According to Phulkian States Gazetteer (1904), p.205, it was subject to a general massacre and loot for three days.
  3. Prachin Panth Prakash, 102-3; Shamsher Khalsa, 5-6; Macauliffe, Sikh Religion, V. 247; Daulat Rai, Banda Bahadur, 24; Karam Singh, Banda Bahadur, 43-46.
  4. Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, I. 78; Latif, History of the Punjab, 275.
  5. Prachin Panth Prakash, 102. Also compare Shamsher Khalsa, p. 6, and Daulat Rai, Banda Bahadur, p.24.
  6. Same as No. 9.
  7. Narang, The Transformation of Sikhism, p. 106
  8. According to Khazan Singh's History, p. 2008, 'On his way' from Samana, 'he plundered Sanaur, Ghudani, Thaska' etc. But as Sanaur is not on the way from Samana to Ghudani, its plunder at this time is improbable.
  9. Karam Singh, Banda Bahadur, p.51
  10. The sack of Kunjpura, the original residence of Nawab Wazir Khan of Sirhind, had been introduced here by Gyan Singh in his Panth Prakash before the attack on Mustafabad. He has, apparently, lost sight of the fact that Banda Singh at this time was marching in the direction of the Sutlej, thought by a long circuitous route, to effect his junction of the Majha and the Doaba Sikhs, and was keeping to the north. He could not have wasted his time and energy, therefore, in unnecessarily going back to the south as far as Kunjpura near Kamal.
  11. Macauliffe, V. 247; Karam Singh, Banda Bahadur, p.51.
  12. Karam Singh, Banda Bahadur, p. 52-5. Sohan Singh, in his Banda the Brave, however, writes : 'before attacking Sadhaura he thought it imperative to pay a punitive visit to Kapuri, where he seized the satan Kadam-ud-Din, and condemned him to death which he well deserved in guerdon of his dark deed.' (p.69).
  13. According to the Prachin Panth Prakash, The Pir's Taboot, or coffin, lay in the parapet of the below which was the passage. He who came in its shadow, fire would not consume it. May he be a Hindu or a Muhammadan, he would die like a Turk-a Moslem.' (p. 104).
  14. Mirza Muhammad Harisi, Ibrat Namah, 40b; Karam Singh, Banda Bahadur, 55-9.