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The Battles of Sadhaura and Lohgarh

The Sikhs from Thanesar and Sirhind had retreated towards Lohgarh when Bahadur Shah arrived at Sadhaura on the 13th Shawwal, 1122 (4th December, 1710). Banda Singh had also come there to strengthen his fortifications. Every one, of whatever position, who came to the Imperial camp, represented Banda Singh to be a man possessed of magical powers, and that flames of fire issued from his tongue and throat and that sword and arrow could not wound his followers. 'According to the popular voice, 'says Irvine, 'he was most powerful magician, greater even than he who made a calf to talk; he could tum a bullet from its course and could work such spells that spear and sword had little or no effect upon his followers. Owing to these idle rumours the Emperor and the nobles and the soldiers were much disturbed in mind and were disheartened. The Sikhs, on the other hand, were encouraged by the belief instilled into them by Banda [Singh] that all who lost their lives in this war would be recreated at once in a higher rank'.1

On the 13th Shawwal (4th December, 1710), the Quarter­ Master-General Rustamdil Khan and Firoze Khan Mewati, who had also now joined the Imperial camp, were ordered to go forward with the advance tents and select some suitable site for the next encampment. Jumlat-ul-Mulk Munim Khan Khan-i­ Khanan and his son, Mahabat Khan, with their troops, and Afzal Khan Bakhshi, with the retinue of Prince Rafi-us-Shan, escorted the Pesh-Khana (advance tents). News were brought in on the 14th Shawwal (5th December) that Rustamdil Khan had gone hardly two kos jaribi from the royal camp, when the Sikhs from a distance of ten or twelve kos rushed upon him with showers of arrows, rockets and musket balls. 'It is impossible for me,' says Khafi Khan, 'to describe the fight which followed. The Sikhs in their fakir dress struck terror into the royal troops. The number of the dead and dying of the Imperialists was so large that, for a time, it seemed they were losing ground. A nephew of Firoz Khan Mewati was killed and his son wounded.'2 'The Sikh Sardars unmindful of their lives advanced, sword in hand, and made most of the crusaders taste the cup of martyrdom and wounded a great many of them.' Most of Rustamdil Khan's followers could not stand the on-rush and were scattered. But soon, after, the rest of the Imperial troops arrived and outnumbered the Sikhs. 'This humble person,' says Kamwar Khan, the author of the Tazkirat-us-Salatin, 'was then present with the troops of Prince Rafi-us-Shan and saw with his own eyes that every one of the cursed Sikhs came out of the entrenchments, challenged the Imperial troops, and, after great struggle and trial, fell under the swords of the Ghazis. 'And, with the setting of the sun, they retreated towards the eastern mountains and fell back upon the fort of Lohgarh.3

The Imperialists advanced a kos and a half and set up the advance tents. Jumlat-ul-Mulk Munim Khan and his son Mahabat Khan were left to guard the camp, while Rustamdil Khan, Afzal Khan and other nobles advanced half a kos farther and took up a position on the bank of the Som. The rivulet was running very low, and on the other side of it stretched a thick jungle where a dreadful noise was heard the whole night, demanding a very close watching. Rustamdil Khan was rewarded with the title of 'Ghazi Khan Rustam-i-Jang' and his rank was raised to 4000 zat, 3000 horse, and Khan-i-Khanan and Mahabat Khan were honoured with dishes of food from the royal kitchen.4

On the 18th Shawwal, 1122 (9th December, 1710), the Emperor arrived at his camp on the Som within sight of Lohgarh, which lay on a high summit surrounded by hollows, craggy rocks and deep path. On Thursday, the 19th Shawwal (10th December), the Imperial troops marched under the command of Prince Rafik-us-Shan to the foot of the Daber hills. To the left side the Prince led the Harawals, Advance Guard of the Imperial army, a kos in advance, and Raja Udet Singh Bundela commanded the Harawals of Bakhshi-ul-Mumalik's troops. Jumlat-ul-Mulk Khan-i-Khanan and his sons, Mahabat Khan and Khan Zaman, guided by men of local knowledge covered the right side, their advance being under Raja Chatarsal Bundela and Islam Khan Mir Atish. Munim Khan Khan-i-Khanan was further supported by the troops of Hamid-ud-din Khan and the retinues of Princes Azim-us-Shan and Jahan Shah. Thus the fort of Lohgarh was very closely invested by over sixty thousand imperial troops, horse and foot, reinforced by a large number of plunderers from among the Rohila Afghans, Bilochs and others.5 So strong and inaccessible was Lohgarh that Bahadur Shah dared not attack the Sikhs in their fortress, and resolved to seem inactive for some time to tempt them to an engagement. On this account, he issued positive orders to the princes and all the Amirs not to approach the Sikh entrenchments on any pretence, however favourable. Wazir Munim Khan Khan-i-Khanan, however, entreated the Emperor for permission to advance with his force to reconnoitre the enemy's position. The permission was granted on the condition that he should not commence an attack without further orders from His Majesty.6

When Munim Khan arrived within shot of their entrenchments, the Sikhs began a warm cannonade from their works, while bodies of their infantry on the heights galled him with rockets, musketry and arrows. The Wazir, more out of jealousy of his military fame than fear of the Emperor's displeasure, ventured for once to disobey the Imperial orders and ordered an attack. This scene was passing within sight of the royal camp. The chiefs and soldiers, including the troops of Prince Rafi-us-Shan, and Rustamdil Khan, emulous of glory, did not wait for orders. They hastened to share in the attack in great numbers while the Emperor and the four princes viewed the raging fight form the squares of their encampments with a mixture of anger and satisfaction.7

A little before the time of the Zuhar prayer, great smoke and much noise issued from within the Sikh enclosure. Kamwar Khan and his adopted son Khidmat-yab Khan, Khwaja Aman­ ullah Qausbegi and a few others separated themselves from the Imperial troops and went towards the Sikh entrenchments. They were at the distance of an arrow's flight from the Sikh mud-fort when a cannon-ball from a tamarind tree on the top of a hillock threw the group into disorder. Here Kamwar Khan learnt from some bearers that the Sikhs were falling back upon the forts of Sataragarh and Lohgarh and that the Imperial troops had taken to fire and plunder.8

With the raging fight, the excitement increased in the royal troops, and excepting the personal guards of the Emperor and of the princes, the whole of the army, numbering about sixty thousand horse and foot, were seen rushing upon the Sikh entrenchments. The Sikhs were labouring under a great disadvantage for want of men, and were outnumbered at all posts. One after the other, their pickets on the lower hills had to be abandoned and they had to fall back upon their last position in the fort of Lohgarh. There was a heavy loss of life on both sides. Among the dead on the Muhammadan side was found the son of Peshkar Sucha Nand, whose body, and those of many Muhammadans slain by the Sikhs, lay half-hidden under some stones. 'The spectacle of this fearful carnage,' says Kamwar Khan, 'moved the hearts of the compassionate, and this show of the deceptiveness of fate seared the brains of the afflicted.'

Mirza. Rukan at this time arrived from the front and informed the Emperor that fighting still continued in the passes of the hills, and that Rustaindil Khan had reached the foot of the hill on which stood a white building occupied by the Sikh chief Banda Singh. The messenger pointed out the hill and the tent from where Banda Singh was said to be viewing the brave deeds of his devoted followers. Just then Raja Udet Singh Bundela, stung by the taunts of his fellow-countryman Raja Chatarsal Bundela, separated himself from the royal troops and hurriedly rode off towards that hill to reinforce the troops of Munim Khan Khan-i­ Khanan. His fresh matchlock men poured a thick fire upon the tired Sikhs. But they continued to defend themselves in a most gallant manner. Although the day was rolled up in a dark night, the sounds of fighting were brought on the wind to the Imperial camp till midnight.9

The Sikhs, says Khafi Khan, accepted the instructions of their leader as all-truth. With the deepest love and devotion they came out of the fort and, with the shouts of their war cry, rushed upon the fire of the Imperial artillery, and upon arrows, swords and spears, boldly and resignedly, like moths upon a flame. They directed line-breaking attacks upon the royal entrenchments, and large numbers of the Muhammadans obtained eternal martyrdom at their hands. From among the Hindu Khatris and Jats, only those who accepted his creed and joined his force were spared. All the remaining Hindus were considered with the Muhammadans as worthy of no compassion. If, in an army of two or three thousand horsemen, there are two or three hundred devoted horsemen true to their master's salt, they become the source of pride and victory for that army. In spite of the fact that the Sikhs were mostly footmen, there was hardly any horseman or footman in their group who did not offer himself heart and soul for sacrifice like a goat at the altar of his leader and willingly gave up his life.'10

At the time of the evening prayer Munim Khan, sure of having the Sikh chief in his power, ordered his troops to cease the attack and to lie upon their arms in their present position till the morning should enable him to finish it with success. He left Rustamdil Khan and his troops to surround the hill and the fort of Lohgarh, and returned11 to the royal camp to report to the Emperor the course of events. The Emperor's anger, on account of the Wazir's disobedience of royal instructions regarding the attack, must have been cooled down by the assurances advanced by him that Banda Singh was surrounded and that he would be brought in as a prisoner the following morning. It is said, says the author of the Maasir-ul-Umra, that the harkaras or couriers of Zulfqar Khan, out of enmity for Munim Khan, had, under his instructions, spread the false news that the Sikh leader was in their hands. The harkaras of Khan-i-Khanan believed the story and conveyed it to him, and he communicated it to the Emperor.12 The besieged Sikhs had no stores of food and fodder in the fort of Lohgarh and they feared to be reduced to great extremities in no time. From the top of their fort they bargained, with 'Signs of their hands and eyes, with the grain-dealers with the royal army, and bought what they could from them at two and three rupees a seer of grain. They threw their chadars or sheets from above and pulled it up with ropes. A handful or two of it was distributed to each of the besieged, many of whom died of starvation. They are also said to have eaten their horses and other beasts of burden to appease their hunger.13 The last faint hope now left to the Sikhs was the desperate chance of cutting through the enemy. From this and its consequences they did not shrink. One Gulab Singh, a Hindu convert, Bakhshi of the Sikh force,14 'offered to sacrifice his life for the good of his religion,' dressed himself in the garments of Banda Singh and seated himself in his place. Between midnight and day-break a loud sound, causing the ground under the Imperial tents tremble, was heard from the Sikh enclosure. 'It was caused by the explosion of a cannon, made out of the trunk of a tamarind tree, which the Sikhs had filled with powder and blown to pieces just as they were about to retreat.' Then Banda Singh and the surviving Sikhs came forth, sword in hand, and, by a determined sally, cut their way through the besiegers' lines and escaped towards the mountains of the 'Barfi Raja' of Nahan.15

On the morning of 20th Shawwal, 1122 (11th December, 1710), before dawn, Jumlat-ul-Mulk Munim Khan Khan-i­ Khanan renewed the attack and gained the place after a short struggle, exulting in the certainty of carrying the Sikh Chief dead or alive to the Emperor. But, who can measure the weight of his grief and disappointment at finding that 'the hawk had flown' without leaving any trace behind him? For an instant, Munim Khan, says Iradat Khan, lost the use of his faculties and was drowned in the dread of the Emperor's anger. Gulab Singh Bakhshi and some ten or twelve wounded and dying Sikhs were made prisoners, and, with hanging head, the great Mughal noble returned to the camp. 'As he was, agreeable to the custom after an important victory, beating the march of triumph on his way to the royal tents, orders arrived commanding him to stop the drums and not dare to enter the presence. He retired, drowned in despair, to his own tents, where he had the cruel mortification of learning every instant from messengers, that his enemies exulted in his fall from favour and openly condemned his conduct with malicious zeal in the presence of His Majesty, who was highly enraged at him.'16

The Emperor's displeaSure at the escape of the Sikh Chief could not be concealed. 'It mattered not, said Bahadur Shah, where the dog had fled to, whether he was drowned in the river or was hiding in a cave in the hill; in any case the Wazir [Munim Khan] had bound himself to produce the rebel, and produce him he must. He [Bahadur Shah] claimed the man from him. Overwhelmed with these fierce reproaches, Munim Khan.' says Muhammed Shafi Warid, 'left the council-chamber with hanging head and dejected mien.'17

On the same morning, 20th Shawwal, 1122, Rustamdil Khan brought in the Sikh prisoners and the spoil consisting of five elephants, three pieces of cannon, seventeen rahkales (light pieces), a canopy and some silver poles belonging to the Sikh Chief. The Emperor was there upon pleased to reward him with a pair of elephants, a male and a female. Guiab Singh and his ten or twelve fellow-prisoners were made over to Sarbrah Khan Kotwal for execution. Orders were at this time issued calling upon the royal princes and the Imperial nobles to join the camp without delay. In two days' time the Emperor's anger was cooled down, and he was pleased to receive Munim Khan Khan-i­ Khanan again into his favour and to bestow dresses of honour in an open Darbar on the 22nd Shawwal, 1122 (13th December, 1710), upon him and upon Bakhshi-ul-Mumalik Amir-ul-Umra, of five pieces each, and upon Mahabat Khan Bahadur, Hamid­ ud-din Khan Bahadur and Islam Khan Bahadur of four pieces each. Among the Hindu chiefs and nobles who rendered yeoman's service to the Great Mughal in his expedition against the Sikhs, Raja Udet Singh Bundela received a special dress of honour, Raja Chatarsal an aigrette, and Chauramon Jat an elephant.18

Orders were dispatched the same day, 22nd Shawwal, 1122 (13th December, 1710), to the Rajas (Zamindars) of Srinagar and Nahan calling upon them to seize the Sikh leader and despatch him to the royal presence. Hamid Khan was sent in pursuit with the orders: 'If they caught the Sikh Chief they were to take him prisoner alive; if they could not, they were to take the Barfi Raja and bring him to the presence.' As Banda Singh and the Sikhs had effected their escape into or through the territory of the Raja of Nahan, the crime of the Raja was considered to be more patent. Unfortunately the Raja's capital happened to be only a few miles away, and the Imperial nobles, finding no trace of the Sikhs, poured their bile upon Raja Bhup Parkash, son of Raja Hari Parkash, of Nahan and brought him to the royal camp near the village of Puri on the 2nd Zi-ul-Qada, 1122 (22nd December, 1710). He was thrown into prison, and about thirty of the leading hillmen, who were deputed by his old mother to plead for his release, were executed on the 4th Safar, 1123 (23rd March, 1711).19 The fate reserved for Raja Bhup Parkash was rather pitiable. 'An iron cage', says Khafi Khan, 'became the lot of the Barfi Raja [Bhup Parkash] and of that Sikh [Guiab Singh] who so devotedly sacrificed himself for his Guru' and 'for the good of his religion' 'for they were placed in it and sent to the fort of Delhi.'20

Raja Fateh Singh of Srinagar, living in inaccessible mountains, far beyond the easy reach of the Imperialists, could not be arrested. He was also prudent enough to offer his submission to the Emperor by sending presents which were received in the royal camp on the 20th Muharram, 1123 (8th March, 1711).

For some days the Imperial sappers and miners dug the ground in the fort of Lohgarh in search of the hidden treasure of the Sikhs, and on the 25th Shawwal, 1122 (16th December, 1710), about eight lacs of Rupees and gold Ashrafis were recovered therefrom.

After the dispatch of orders to the Rajas of Nahan and Srinagar for the capture of the Sikh Chief, and of Hamid Khan Bahadur in pursuit of him, Emperor Bahadur Shah moved his camp towards Puri21 and Sadhaura, where his progress towards Lahore was arrested for some days by heavy rains that had now set in. Passing through Sarwarpur and Rasulpur, he arrived at Bhadoli on the 15th February, 1711, where, thirteen days later, on the 28th, Munim Khan Khan-i-Khanan died of 'some affection in the face of the nature of gangrene, which had attacked his eye and ear.'22 Breaking up the camp at Bhadoli on the 7th of March, 1711, the Emperor arrived at Ropar on the 30th April, and, moving nearer the river-bank on the 2nd May, crossed the Sutlej on the 17th. On the 9th June he arrived at Hoshiarpur23 and the Beas was crossed on the 23rd June. A halt was made at the town of Kahnuwan on the 17th July, at Kalanaur on the 29th, Chamiari on the 30th, and Panjgrain on the 3rd August. His Majesty reached Lahore on the 11th August, 1711.24

Notes and References

  1. Irvine, Later Mughals, i. 111; Dastur-ul-Insha, Khafi Khan, ii. 671.
  2. Khafi Khan, ii. 669-70; Kamwar Khan, Tazkira, 153 a;
  3. Kamwar. Tazkira, 153 a; Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, i. 81.
  4. Kamwar, Tazkira, 153a.
  5. Harisi, !brat Namah, 42b-43a; lradat Khan. Memoirs, 61-2; Kamwar, Tazkira, 153 b; Mirat-i-Aftab Numa, 366 b.
  6. Iradat Khan, Memoirs 62; Murray, History of India, 306.
  7. Iradat Khan, Memoirs, 62.
  8. Kamwar Khan, Tazkira, 154a.
  9. Iradat Khan, 62; Kamwar, 154a-b.
  10. Muntakhib-ul-Lubab, ii. 671-2.
  11. According to lradat Khan, Munim Khan did not return to the royal camp at this time but came in only on the following morning, 20th Shawwal, 1122 (11th December, 1710), after the escape of Banda Singh from the fort of Lohgarh during the previous night.
  12. Kamwar, Tazkira, 154 b; Maasir-ul-Umra. iii. 673-4.
  13. Muntakhib-ul-Lubab, ii. 672-3.
  14. Dastur-ul-Insha, Sb; Ruqat-i-Amin-ud-Daula, Ruba 4.
  15. Qasim, Ibrat Namah; Kamwar, Tazkira, 154 b; Khafi Khan, ii. 673; Maasir-ul-Umra, iii. 673; Elphinstone, History of India, 680; Nolan, History, ii 684; Festing, When Kings rode to Delhi, 400. According to lradat Khan, in the words of Muh8mmad Latif, 'the Sikh chieftain effected his escape during the night by a narrow path leading from the fort to the hills, which had escaped the general's notice, and retreated into the wildest parts of the snowy range of the Himalayas.' [History of the Punjab, 278].

The Rajas of Srinagar nad Nahan, particularly the latter, have generally been styled by the Muhammadan writers 'Barfi Raja' or Icy Kings. They were so-called because of their territories being in the ice-clad mountains, or 'because the Raja of Nahan used to send boat-loads of ice or barf as presents to the Emperor and nobles of Delhi.' (Tarikh-i-Muhammad Shahi­ Nadir-uz-Zamani, Irvine, I. 117).

  1. Memoirs of Iradat Khan, 63; Kamwar, Tazira, l54b; Harasi, Ibrat Namah, 43a
  2. Mirat-i-Waridat, Irvine, ii. 117.
  3. Kamwar, Tazkira, 155a.
  4. Mirat-i-waridat; Kamwar Khan, Tazkira, 156a.
  5. Muntakh-ul-Lubab, ii. 673-4; Elliot, vii. 424-5; Kamwar, Tazkira, 155a.
  6. It was here that Rajaa Bhup Parkash, son of Raja Hari Parkash, of Nahan, was brought to the royal presence by Hamid Khan on 2nd Zi-ul-Qada, 1122 (22nd December, 1710).
  7. According to Iradat Khan, the chief minister died of the effects of his disgrace at the hands of Bahadur Shah in the presence of his enemies. Although his fall from royal favour 'did not continue long, and Shah Alum, regarding his former service, received him again into favour after a few days, yet this noble and faithful minister never recovered from the effects of the royal ingratitude..........and from days and then resigned his soul to the angel of death.' Jonathan Scot, Memories of Iradat Khan, 63-4. Also see Dastur­ ul-lnsha.
  8. Here it was reported to the Emperor that Isa Khan Manj, who had succeeded Shamas Khan Kheshgi to the Faujdari of Bist Jullundur after the latter's dismissal, had inflicted a defeat on the Sikhs, [Kamwar, Tazkira, 157 b]. But, when and where this battle was fought does not appear to have been recorded in any historical work, printed or in manuscript, so far unearthed.
  9. Kamwar Khan, Tazkira-us-Salatin; Irvine, i. 120.