excerpted From the book: Sikh History By Sardar Kartar Singh and Wikipedia
Editors note: Moghul barbarity towards Sikhs knew no limits. At least two determined efforts were made to exterminate all living Sikhs. The excerpt below records the public torture and execution of Banda Singh Bahadur. It is noteworthy for the savagery and extreme hatred to which the Moghuls subjected the conquered Sikh nation. The final torture and killings of Sikhs took place at Merauli which has now been absorbed into Delhi.
The events were witnessed by a number of foreigners including two Englishmen all of whom noted the singular events down for posterity.
The events recounted took place in the year 1718
Prelude To Mass Murder
Then an imperial order was issued, commanding all government officials to kill Sikhs wherever they were to be found. The orders were strictly enforced. Sikhs and their sympathizers were slaughtered in large numbers.
The Emperor then issued another order. All Hindus were ordered to shave off their beards. That would enable them to be distinguished from the Sikhs. The emperor knew that Sikhs would never, even under pain of death, cut or shave their beards, or any hair whatever from their bodies. Baba Banda Singh was obliged to evacuate Lohgarh (“The Castle of Iron”). He took refuge in the Jammu hills where he married for a second time and founded a settlement of his own, now called Dera Baba Banda Singh.
After a stay of over one year in the hills, Baba Banda Singh reappeared in the plains. He conquered Kalanpur and Batala once more. Then he was attacked by a huge army. The army was helped by a number of Hindu rajas. In the first encounter with the imperial forces, Baba Banda Singh fought so heroically that he nearly defeated them. But the odds were too heavily loaded against him. He retreated to the village of Gurdas-Nangal about six kilometers to the west of Gurdaspur. The imperial forces laid siege to the village. Provisions were soon exhausted. The besieged soon began to suffer extreme hunger. In the absence of grain, the flesh of horses, asses, and other animals had to be used as food. They ate grass and leaves of trees. Then they removed the bark of trees and broke of their small shoots. They dried and grounded them., and used them in place of flour. Some Sikhs cut flesh from their own thighs, roasted it, and ate it.
In spite of all this, the Sikhs withstood the huge imperial forces for eight long months. But how long could this continue ? About eight thousand Sikhs had died. The remaining were reduced to mere skeletons. They had become too weak to wield any weapons. The imperial army entered the fortress. Baba Banda Singh and his famished followers were taken prisoner. Baba Banda Singh’s wife and his three year old son were among the prisoners.
From Gurdas Nangal Baba Banda Singh and his companions were taken to Lahore (editor: about 350 kilmetres away). There they were paraded in the streets. Then they were dispatched to Delhi (about 550 kilometres from Lahore). Baba Banda Singh was bound in chains in four places and put in an iron cage. The cage was placed on an elephant’s back. His companions, about two hundred in all, were also in chains. Zakriya Khan, son of the governor of Lahore, was in charge of these prisoners. He thought that the number of prisoners was too small to present to the Emperor. Hence he caught every Sikh he could find in the villages on the way. The number of prisoners finally was seven hundred and forty. Thousands more were killed. The heads of two thousand Sikhs were hung on spears and carried along with the prisoners. In addition to these, seven hundred cartloads of Sikhs’ heads also accompanied the horrible show.If one cart be supposed to contain fifty heads, 700 carts must have contained 35,000 heads !
Unparalleled Barbarity And Savagery
The cavalcade to the imperial capital was a grisly sight. Besides 740 prisoners in heavy chains, it comprised seven hundred cartloads of Sikh heads with another 200 stuck upon pikes.
On February 26, 1716, the procession neared Delhi, and Farukh Siyar ordered his Minister, Mohammed Amin Khan, to go out to receive them and to prepare them for a suitable display in the city. On February 29, the citizens of Delhi lined the streets, to get a good sight of the procession.
First came two-thousand soldiers, each holding a Sikh head impaled on his upright spear. Next followed the elephant carrying Banda in his iron cage, still with two Muslim guards guarding him, with their swords unsheathed. A gold-laced red turban was placed on his head, and to add further mockery to his plight, a brightly printed scarlet robe was slipped on his body (editor: they dressed him as a magician). Then came 740 prisoners (500 had been collected on the way). These men were chained in pairs and thrown across the backs of camels. Their faces were blackened, and pointed sheepskin or paper caps were clapped on their heads. Behind this line came the Mughal Commanders, Abdus Samad Khan, his son Qamar-ud-Din Khan, and his son-in-law Zakaria Khan. Their men lined both sides of the streets.\
Carnival Of Death
On reaching Delhi, Baba Banda Singh and the other Sikh prisoners were taken in the procession through the main streets of Delhi at the head of the procession were carried two thousand heads of the Sikhs. They were raised on bamboo poles. Their long hair waved in the wind. Then came Baba Banda Singh, seated in an iron cage placed on the back of the elephant. After his elephant, came the other Sikh prisoners. They were tied two and two on saddle less camels.For miles and miles, the route was lined on both sides with troops and filled with merry crowds. They had gathered to enjoy the ‘tamasha’ (fun). They were beside themselves with joy. A Muhammedan writer saw the whole scene. He calls it a tamasha. He writes, ‘The Musalmans (editor: muslims) were dancing with joy. The unfortunate Sikhs were happy. They were contented with their lot. There was not the slightest sign of sorrow or dejection on their faces. In fact, most of them seemed to be happy and cheerful. They were merrily singing their sacred hymns.
About two weeks later, began the murder of the Sikh prisoners. One hundred of them were killed everyday. Every batch was told, ‘Those of you who embrace Islam will not be killed.’ But not even a single Sikh thought of saving his life in that way. They had no fear in death. They called the executioner Mukt or the Deliverer. They cried out to him joyfully, ‘O Mukt ! Kill me first.’ They even disputed and argued with each other for priority in death. This work of butchery went on until all the prisoners were beheaded.
For seven days, executions were carried out, until all the ordinary captives had been disposed off. Their bodies were loaded on wagons and taken out of town to be thrown to the vultures. The heads were hung up on trees or on poles near the market-place to be a lesson to all rebels. The jailors next turned their attention to the 20 major leaders, including Baj Singh, Fateh Singh, Ali Singh and Gulab Singh. These men were tortured to the extreme and were asked to divulge the place where they had buried all the treasures that had been looted from Sirhind, Batala and other towns during their better days.
Among the Sikh prisoners was a tender aged newly married youth. He had been arrested from a village on the way. His widowed mother had followed the prisoners to Delhi. She wanted to save her son’s life. She was told, ‘Go and tell the emperor that your son is not a Sikh. The emperor will spare his life.’ She went to the emperor and said, ‘My youthful son is not a Sikh. He is a prisoner in hands of Baba Banda Singh’s men. Kindly order his release.’ The widows appeal moved the emperor. He ordered her son’s release. She hurried with order, and gave it to the officer in charge of the executions. He called up the youth and said to him, ‘As you are not a Sikh, you are free.’ The boy said, ‘Who says I am not a Sikh ?’ The Mughal officer said, ‘Your mother, there, says so.’ The boy said, ‘She is telling a lie. I am heart and soul a Sikh. Send me quickly after my comrades.’ He ran back to the place of execution where he was beheaded. He joined his martyred comrades. These murders took place in March 1718.
Baba Banda Singh and his leading companions were kept alive for about three months. His turn came in first week of June, 1718. He and his 26 companions were taken in procession thorough the streets of the old city. He was taken to the tomb of emperor Bahadur Shah, near the Qutab Minar. There he was paraded round the tomb. He was then offered the usual choice between Islam and death. He chose to die rather than give up his faith.
The End : How Banda The Brave Was Tortured To Death
Failing to get any clues after three months, the muslims prepared to put an end to their lives on Sunday, June 9, 1716. Banda’s cage was again hoisted on top of an elephant, and he was dressed in the mock attire of an emperor, with a colourful red pointed turban on his head. His four-year old son, Ajai Singh was placed in his lap.
The twenty chiefs marched behind the elephant and this procession then passed through the streets of Delhi, and headed for the mausoleum of the Emperor Bahadur Shah, near the Qutub Minar. On reaching the graveyard, the captives were again offered a choice of two alternatives: conversion to Islam or death. All chose death. They were tortured again before being being executed. Their heads were then impaled on spears and arranged in a circle around Banda who was now squatting on the ground. There were hundreds of spectators standing around watching this scene.
Banda Singh Bahadur was then given a short sword and ordered to kill his own son Ajai Singh. As he sat unperturbed, the executioner moved forward and plunged his sword into the little child cutting the body into two. Then pieces of flesh were cut from the body and thrown in Banda’s face. His liver was removed and thrust into Banda Singh’s mouth. The father sat through all this without any signs of emotion. His powers of endurance were to be tested still further.
But before that, Mohammed Amin Khan, who was standing near, spoke as follows: “From your manner so far you appear to be a man of virtue, who believes in God, and in doing good deeds. You are also very intelligent. Can you tell me why you are having to suffer all this here ?”
Banda’s reply was, “When the tyrants oppress their subjects to the limit, then God sends men like me on this earth to mete out punishment to them. But being human, we sometimes overstep the laws of justice, and for that we are made to pay whilst we are still here. God is not being unjust to me in any way.”
The executioner then stepped forward and thrust the point of his dagger into Banda’s right eye, pulling out the eyeball. He then pulled out the other eyeball. Banda sat through all this as still as a rock. His face gave no twitch of pain.
Then the executioner took his sword and slashed off Banda’s left foot, then both his arms. But Banda’s features were still calm as if he was at peace with his Creator. Finally they tore off his flesh with red-hot pincers, and there being nothing else left in their book of tortures, they cut his body up into a hundred pieces, and were satisfied.
(These details of the torture are given in full, by the following writers: Mohammed Harisi, Khafi Khan, Thornton, Elphinstone, Daneshwar and others who were present at the scene).
Postscript: The End Is The Beginning
The Khalsa Belongs to God
The Victory Belongs To God
(utterance of Respected Guru Gobind Singh, Anandpur Sahib, 1699)
After the execution of Banda Singh Bahadur, the Sikhs entered into a long protracted struggle for supremacy with the muslim invaders. There were official muslim progroms to exterminate all Sikhs. In the brutish struggle for survival the entire Sikh nation was divided into two armies: the Buddha Dal (Army of the Elders) and the Taruna Dal (Army of the Young). Everyone was obliged to perform their soldier’s duty and they did. women fought alongside the men. History records that young children aged 10 years and younger fought to the death in a desperate attempt to hold back the Moghul invader.
The Five Arrows Incident
Guru Gobind Singh met a reclusive hermit, Lachman Das, deep in the jungles of Nandehr while travelling south to the Deccan. The hermit had renounced the world and taken an abode deep in a jungle where he performed religious austerities. A religious discourse occurred between Guru and Lachman and Lachman Das is said to have fallen onto his knees professing the Sikh faith. He is reputed to have said to Guru Gobind Singh Ji: I am your Banda (slave). The last name Singh means Lion and is common to all Sikh males. Bahudur means Brave. The meeting between Guru and disciple was of a very short duration, perhaps no more than a portion of a day.
Guru Gobind Singh commanded Banda To Lead The Sikh Nation and gifted him five arrows from his quiver and 25 men. Banda Bahadur set out from the jungles of Nanderh with the five arrows and 25 men, 1500 kilometers northward; to initiate an epic struggle for supremacy against the Mughul Empire.
Banda Bahudar is regarded as one of the greatest heroes of the Sikh Nation.
WaheGuruji Ka Khalsa
WaheGuruji Ki Fateh
Raj Karega Khalsa
The Seal Explained
One side of Banda Bahadur’s seal reads: Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh
The other side of the reads: Degh (cooking pot), Tegh (sword) Fateh (Victory)
Victory to the cooking pot and the sword. Meaning that the Khalsa will feed every person and the Khalsa will protect with it’s sword arm all the oppressed and abandoned people in the world.
Thank you for reading:
Wahe guruji ka Khalsa
Wahe guruji ki Fateh
The Khalsa belongs to God
The victory belongs to God.