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The Great Sikh Holocaust

In 1761 the Sikhs under Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia occupied Lahore. They proclaimed him king. He coined money in the name of the Guru. The Khalsa gathered that year at Amritsar to celebrate their annual day of Diwali. They passed a resolution to capture the strongholds of the allies and helpers of Ahmad Shah Abdali. The nearest helper and ally of the foreigner was Aqil Das Niranjania of Jandiala. He was a sworn enemy of the Sikhs. He had always aided their enemies. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia informed him of the decision of the Khalsa. It was a thought that he would submit and make a compromise with the Sikhs. But he did nothing of the kind. He at once wrote to Ahmad Shah and invited his help. Ahmad Shah was already on his way to Hindustan. Aqil Das's messenger met him Rohtas. He hurried towards Jandiala. He found that the Sikhs had raised the siege and gone away towards Sarhind. The reason for their hurried withdrawal was this: before meeting the invader they wanted to take their families to a place beyond his reach. There was another reason also. The governor of Sarhind, Zain Khan had recently killed Sardar Dial Singh Brar. The Sikhs wanted to avenge his death. They began to gather in villages close to Malerkotla. The chief of the place invited Zain Khan to help him. At the same time he informed Ahmad Shah about gathering of the Sikhs near Malerkotla. 

From Jandiala Ahmad Shah had gone to Lahore. When he heard the news of the Sikhs' gathering near Malerkotla, he started from Lahore on the third of February, 1762. By making hurried marches, he reached the village of Kupp, near Malerkotla by the morning of the 5th of Feb. About 30,000 Sikhs were encamped there with their families and all their belongings. He had already sent instructions to Zain Khan that he should attack the Sikhs on the front. He himself was to fall upon them from the rear. He ordered soldiers to kill all people found in Hindustani dress. In order to distinguish Zain Khan's forces from those of the Sikhs, the former were told to wear green leaves in their turbans. Several thousand Sikhs were killed. Most of them were women and children. The Sikhs had been taken by surprise. Immediately they held a council. They decided to die fighting. Of course, they could have saved themselves by surrendering and giving up their faith, but the thought never crossed their minds. They threw a cordon around their women and children, and began to move forward. They moved on fighting. Ahmad Shah wanted to have a pitched battle with the Sikhs. But they went on moving as they fought. They moved on fighting from village to village. The people of the places through which they passed gave them no shelter. They feared invader. On the contrary, they fell upon them and killed a large number. The Sikhs continued to move on. Their aim was to reach Barnala. They hoped that, at that place, they would get help from Baba Ala Singh. If they got no help from him there, they were to pass on to the dry desert of Bhathinda. 

But before they could reach Barnala, their cordon was broken by Ahmad Shah's soldiers. A wholesale massacre of Sikhs followed. At least ten thousand Sikhs were killed in this action. The wholesale destruction of the Sikhs occurred on the 5th of February 1762. It is called Wadda Ghalughara or the Great Holocaust. In all, over 50,000 men, women and children perished in this campaign of slaughter. We should remember that these heroic Sikhs were massacred because they had tried to rid their country of cruel fanatic and despotic rulers. They were inspired with patriotic urges and emotions of the noblest type. They were freedom fighters in a most real sense. They were men of unshakeable faith, unbeatable courage, unbreakable will, and unmatchable capacity to do and suffer for their faith and ideals. They died heroic deaths in order to create conditions in which their countrymen could live with honor and self-respect. They achieved their glorious martyrdom. They are remembered, and shall ever remembered, with respect and admiration by students of history as well as, by all the followers of the Sikh Gurus. Let us bow our heads to these patriots and fighters for their and our country's freedom.

Source - Sikh History Book 5 by Kartar Singh, Hemkunt Press, New Delhi