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The Battle of Rupar

Banda Singh now hurried in the north-westerly direction to relieve the northern Sikhs, who had collected on the other side of the Sutlej near Kiratpur1 and were anxiously waiting for his orders. On his way the Hindus of Chhat2 appealed to him for protection against the aggressions of the local Muhammadans and complained of their usual highhandedness in the most pity­ exciting language. Their loose morality and religious intolerance, they said, were a terror to their honour and faith. Banda Singh, therefore, occupied the small town of Chhat and placed it under a Sikh Amil.3

By this time the Sikhs from the other side of the Sutlej crossed over from Kiratpur. As we have seen in the previous chapter, Wazir Khan, the Faujdar of Sirhind, was very much alarmed at the news of Banda Singh's conquests in his own chakla4 and his anticipated advance upon the city of Sirhind. His fears were further aggravated when he heard that a large number of Sikhs from the Doaba and the Majha were soon expected to join Banda Singh, whose efforts, at this time, were mainly directed against himself. With so small a force, as Banda Singh had under his command up to this time, he had been eminently successful in all his expeditions. With the reinforcements from the central Punjab, it was feared he would become too strong for any army that Wazir Khan might bring against the Sikhs. His only safety lay, therefore, in preventing the combination of the two forces. With this object, he deputed Sher Muhammad Khan of Maler Kotla to deal with the Sikhs coming down from the north before they could join the main force of Banda Singh.

So Muhammad Khan, with his brother Khizar Khan and his cousins Nashtar Khan and Wali Muhammad Khan, marched against the Sikhs. The Majha Sikhs, in the meantime, had come down as far as Rupar, where Sher Muhammad Khan fell upon them. The battle began in right earnest. But it was an unequal contest. Sher Muhammad Khan had a much greater force composed of the Afghans of Maler Koda, the Ranghars of Rupar and the detachments from Sirhind, equipped with two guns and other necessary implements of war. The Sikhs, on the other hand, were small in number and had hardly a sufficient number of matchlocks. Many of them were equipped with nothing more than a sword or a spear. The spirit of the holy war, however, pushed them on, and they fought with an extraordinary courage. The fighting continued for a whole day. The shortage of ammunition might have concluded the contest against the Sikhs, but, providently, the day was soon rolled up in a dark night to be followed by a more favourable morning. Sher Muhammad Khan was quite confident of a decisive victory the next day. But God willed it otherwise. During the night the Sikhs were reinforced by a fresh batch from the north-east, and, although they were still at a great disadvantage in the necessaries of war and their numerical strength, they prepared themselves to meet the enemy with redoubled courage.

With the rising of the sun, Khizar Khan led the attack. Confident of victory, he rushed on and on till the battle was reduced to a hand-to-hand fight. The only means of escape for the Sikhs, he shouted out, was to lay down their arms and surrender. But this excited the Sikhs to a more desperate struggle. They replied to his demand with a heavy shower of arrows and shots aimed with extraordinary precision. A bullet struck Khizar Khan and the brave Afghan went rolling to the ground. With the death of their leader, it was all confusion in Afghan ranks and they took to their heels. Sher Muhammad Khan now came forward to cheer up his men, but all was in vain. The Sikhs rushed upon them with swords and drove the Afghans and Ranghars before them. Sher Muhammad and his cousins dashed forward to recover the body of Khizar Khan from the Sikhs. Nashtar Khan and Wali Muhammad Khan were both killed in the scuffle and Sher Muhammad Khan was severely wounded, and it was with much difficulty that he could not pursue the enemy for long and remained contented with the arms, ammunition and rations that fell into their hands after the enemy's flight.5

Without Joss of time, they now hurried southwards to join their leader as early as possible. While the northern Sikhs were fighting with the Afghans of Maler Kotla, Banda Singh had marched upon Banur, which offered him no appreciable resistance and fell before him without striking a blow. Banda Singh, at this time, was highly pleased to hear about the glorious victory of his gallant allies at Rupar and marched out a few miles from his camp to receive them. The memorable junction took place between Kharar and Banur on the Ambala-Rupar road.6

Notes and References

  1. Situated on the eastern bank of the River Sutlej, in the Una Tehsil of the Hoshiarpur District.
  2. A village in the Patiala State lying a few miles to the northeast of Banur.
  3. Shamsher Khalsa, 9-10.
  4. A chakla was a territorial division.
  5. Prachin Panth Prakash, p. 106-8, places both the engagements on one and the same day, while Shamsher Khalsa, p. 9-10. Banda Bahadur (Karam Singh), p. 60-2, and Banda the Brave, Sohan Singh), 70-4, place them as given in the next. Also see Sadhu Govind Singh, Itihas Guru Khalsa, 455-6; Veni Prasad, Guru Govind Singh, 201; Daulat Rai, Banda Bahadur, 28.
  6. Macauliffe, V. 247-8; Latif, History of the Punjab, 274.