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The Siege of Sadhaura and Lohgarh

After the accession of Jahandar Shah, Muhammad Amin Khan was sent back to continue the campaign against Banda Singh, and Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan, the Faujdar of the Chakla of Sirhind, was ordered to place himself under his command. In addition to his own forces, every available man of the Imperial army who could be spared from Delhi, and the troops of the province of Lahore were placed at their disposal. For several months the two commanders maintained a close investment of Sadhaura and the fort of Lohgarh, but in spite of all efforts, they failed to make any effect upon the besieged. The Khalsa stood fast to their ground and repulsed the repeated attacks of the Imperial forces to drive them out. At last, towards the end of the year 1124 A.H. (December, 1712), when Emperor Jahandar Shah moved towards Akbarabad (Agra to oppose the advance of Farrukh Siyar, Muhammad Amin Khan was recalled to join the Imperial camp. The expedition against the Sikhs had to be practically suspended, although Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan had been left there to continue it to the best of his ability.1

The struggle between Jahandar Shah and Fam1kh Siyar resulted in the defeat (10th January, 1713) and murder (11th February, 1713) of the former. The reign of Farrukh Siyar, which began with a series of murders and a terrible famine in the country, 'is remarkable,' says Miss Corner, 'for the cruel policy adopted with regard to the Sikhs.'2 On the recall of Muhammad Amin Khan towards Agra, Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan had been left there to continue the campaign, but he could not accomplish anything. Banda Singh, at this time, had a little respite, but he did not waste it in idleness. He availed himself of this opportunity to raise a fort of respectable size close to the town of Sadhaura, where he offered a stout resistance to the Imperial forces and m .ntained his position in spite of all the efforts of the Faujdar of Sirhind.

The fighting spirit and the power of resistance of the Sikh garrison in the fort of Sadhaura was simply wonderful. They would continue their fire upon the enemy even while they were cooking and eating, unmindful of the inclemency of weather. Finding that his cannon-balls made no impression on the fort walls, Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan advanced his trenches within forty or fifty yards of the fort. Here he formed a battery, placed a heavy siege gun in position and opened incessant fire upon the Sikhs. Although the fire was still ineffectual, the Sikh garrison, 'out of mere bravado and to show their valour, resolved to remove this cannon in such a way that no one should hear a sound or know how they had done it.' They dug out a subterranean passage exactly opposite the position where the cannon stood. Yokes of bullocks and cart-ropes were kept ready to be used at a moment's notice. It was the rainy season. One dark night, when nothing could be seen or heard on account of heavy rain and the besiegers dared not put their heads outside the tents, the Sikhs found their opportunity to drag the cannon in. At midnight they pierced through the remaining wall of earth and ranged yokes of bullocks, one before the other, in the subterranean passage. Then some of them, unmindful of the heavy showers of rain and the piercing wind, swam across the moat of the fort, in which the water was rushing down with great force, and reached the besiegers' earthen battery. They tied their ropes firmly to the gun-carriage and crossed back in the same manner to their own safe position. The bullocks then began to pull. The cannon with its carriage was set in motion and rolled down towards the underground passage. But, unfortunately, on n::aching the bottom, the ropes tied to them broke off and the gun and carriage fell apart, causing a loud noise which roused the sleepy sentinels. The disappearance of the cannon caused a confusion in the besiegers' camp, and they ran in all directions to search for it. Through the mud and mire, Zain­ud-Din soon arrived on the spot in a confused state. He was on foot and without a torch, the water in some places coming up to his waist, and a heavy shower of rain pouring from above. He could not order the torches to be lighted as they would expose him to the fire of the Sikhs, and without light nothing could be seen. However, after much search it was found that the cannon and its carriage were lying upside down in the ditch at the foot of the earth-work. Zain-ul-Din now collected his senses and offered rewards of fifty rupees each to one hundred camp followers if they would recover the cannon. And it was with much difficulty that they dragged it out and removed it to a place of safety.3

The siege dragged on for some time more when, in order to put more life into the expedition, a change in the command was made with the change in the governorship of Lahore.

Having secure:d himself on the throne of Delhi, Farrukh Siyar directed his attention to the affairs in the Chakla of Sirhind. On the 27th Muharram,- 1125, (22nd February, 1713), he appointed Abd-us-Samad Khan Diler-i-Jang as the Governor of Lahore in place of Zabardast Khan, and Zakriya Khan, son of Abd-us-Samad Khan, as the Faujdar of Jammau. At the time of his departure, the Emperor instructed him 'to expell Banda from Sadhaura, or, if possible, to destroy him altogether.'4

Saif-ud-Daula Abd-us-Samad Khan Bahadur Diler-i-Jang, a descendant of Khwaja Ahrar of Turan, was a brother-in-law of Itmad-ud-Daula Muhammad Amin Khan Bahadur, whose wife was a sister of his wife, both being the daughters, of his uncle Khwaja Zakriya. He had come to India in the reign of Aurangzeb and at first had the rank of 400. In Bahadur Shah's reign he rose to the rank of 700. In the war of succession between the sons of Bahadur Shah, he joined Zulfiqar Khan and distinguished himself by slaying Prince Jahan Shah. His meritorious services in the struggle between Jahandar Shah and Farrukh Siyar won him the rank of five thousand, with five thousand horse and!he title of Diler-i-Jang, and he was made the Governor of Lahore.5

When he arrived at Sadhaura, the siege laid by Zain-ud-:Din Ahmad had not advanced much. Banda Singh himself occupied the fort of Lohgarh, while his followers held Sadhaura. Finding that he could not successfully attack both the positions, Sadhaura and Lohgarh, at the same time, Abd-us-Samad Khan thought it advisable to attack them one after the other. The combined forces of Abd-us-Samad Khan, Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan and the other Mughal commanders, who had been sent by the Emperor to reinforce the new governor and an innumerable host of local militia, surrounded the fort of Sadhaura from all sides. Now when Banda Singh saw that the Sikhs in Sadhaura would not be able to hold out for long for want of rations, he sent out three or four divisions every other day, and sometimes every day, from Lohgarh for their relief. And, when the Sikhs besieged in Sadhaura saw these troops in the distance or the dust raised by them, they rushed out on all four sides and boldly fell upon the besieging force. But as they were at a great disadvantage in their numerical strength, these sorties, however vigorous, could not make much impression upon the innumerable odds. Their supplies soon began to run short. They had been under the impression that, as heretofore, they could bring in at any time whatever they wanted, and that no one could dare prevent them in this. They had not, therefore, collected sufficient stock of provisions. With the arrival of Abd-us-Samad Khan and his reinforcements from Delhi and other quarters, it became practically impossible to bring in anything through their lines. Their already insufficient stores in the fort of Sadhaura were now soon exhausted, and they were driven to the only alternative of evacuating the fort for a better position in Lohgarh .. At last in the first week of October, 1713, they rushed out in a force and made a determined sally upon the Zamindari militia. Hired levies could hardly stand against self­ sacrificing warriors. It was not easy for them to oppose successfully the desperate Khalsa who cut through their lines and escaped without much loss.6

During this long siege of Sadhaura a fight was reported to the Emperor by a messenger, Kesho Rao, on the 15th Jamadi-ul­Akhir, 1125 (8th July, 1713). It seems that when on the 9th Jamadi-ul-Akhir (2nd July) a detachment of the Sikhs was sent by Banda Singh to relieve the Sikhs of Sadhaura, a division of the Imperial troops proceeded to obstruct their passage. The fight that ensued cost the Imperial commander his life and Baqa Beg Khan and several others fell dead on the field.7

On the evacuation of the fort of Sadhaura, Abd-us-Samad Khan and Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan followed the Sikhs at once to the fort of Lohgarh. As if previously arranged, Banda Singh retreated, on the arrival of his followers from Sadhaura, into the hills and was soon b1eyond the reach of the Imperial force. 'While a camping ground was being selected by the Imperialists, water was sought for, and preparations were in progress for beginning to dig a pitch and throw up earth-works, a party of horsemen rode off in the most reckless fashion towards some high ground from which they expected to obtain a better view of the Sikh position. As soon as they appeared on the high ground, the Sikhs streamed down the further side of the hill and disappeared. This flight became the more inexplicable when the Imperialists saw the elaborate preparation for resistance. From the first ridge up to the wall of Lohgarh itself, they had built fifty two defensive posts, arranged in such a manner that each protected the other, thus exposing an assailant to a deadly fire throughout his advance.' For fear of the Sikhs turning back upon their heels and pouncing upon their pursuers, their pursuit, as it seems, was delayed for several days; and later on, when a search was made through the hill country, no trace could be found of them. The fall of Sadhaura and the escape of Banda Singh and the Sikhs was reported to the Emperor at Delhi on the 20th Ramzan, 1125 (9th October, 1713).8

Notes and References

  1. Harisi, 44 a.
  2. History of India and China, 296.
  3. Annonymous Historical Fragments, Farrukh Siyar Namah and Kamwar's Tazkira as quoted by Irvine, Later Mughals, i. 368-9.
  4. 'He was appointed to finish the campaign against the Sikh Chief who from the time of Bahadur Shah had practiced various kinds of oppressions in the country over both Muhammadans and Hindus.' Maasir-ul-Umra. ii. 515; Beveridge. Trans, 72.
  5. Maasir-ul-Umra, ii. 515; Beveridge, Trans, 71-72.
  6. Farrukh Siyar Namah and Kamwar Tazkira Irvine, i. 309-10.
  7. Kamwar, Tazkira, 170 b.
  8. Annony Frag-Farrukh Siyar Namah, Kamwar, 171b; Irvine, i. 310.