Meanwhile, Khan and his minister, Lakhpat Rai, again launched an all-out campaign against the Sikhs and set forth with a large army. The Sikhs were brought to bay in a dense bush near Kahnuwan, in the Gurdaspur district where they put up a determined fight. Overwhelmed by the superior numbers of the enemy they were scattered with heavy losses. The survivors were chased into the hills. Untold numbers were wounded and more than 7000 died.
"To complete his revenge," wrote Syed Mohammad Latif, (another historian of the Punjab) "Lakhpat Rai brought 1000 Sikhs in irons to Lahore, having compelled them to ride on donkeys, bare-backed, he had them paraded in the bazars. Then they were taken to the horse-market outside Delhi Gate where they were beheaded one after another, without mercy." So indiscriminate and extensive was the killing that the campaign is known in Sikh history as the Chhota Ghalughara or the lesser holocaust only because a still larger massacre of Sikhs the Wadda Ghalughara ( greater holocaust) was to come later.
In order to avenge the death of his brother, Diwan Lakhpat Rai had got all the Sikhs of Lahore executed by scavengers on the 10th March, 1746 AD after that he marched with an army of fifty thousand, including artillery, to wipe out the Sikhs. At that time, about Fifteen thousand Sikhs had taken shelter in the marshes of the river Ravi near the pool of Kahnuwan in Gurdaspur District about 20 kms North west of current day Gurdaspur. The forces of Lakhpat Rai besieged the marshes and began pounding the area with his cannons. Massively outgunned and with no artillery themselves, the Sikhs headed for the safety of the hills, as their attackers moved in pursuit. What rations, the Sikhs had, were soon finished, so whenever they found an oppurtunity, the Sikhs robbed the army of rations and weapons. In 'guerilla' style warfare they attacked and disappeared, keeping the royal army off balance.
One evening the Sikhs rushed out of the bushes and attacked the army, but when the army went after them, they retreated a long way back. Thinking that the Sikhs had gone away, the detachments of the army went to sleep worrilessly. The Sikhs returned, took hold of the horses, rations and the weapons of the detachment and returned to take shelter in the bushes again. After this the Sikhs crossed the river Ravi and started for the towns of Parol and Kathua. The Sikhs were of the view that the Hindu population of the hills would give them shelter, but the hill people instead drove them away with bullets and stones. They had been warned of Diwan Lakhpat Rai's orders, "Whosoever gives shelter to the Sikhs will meet the same fate as the Sikhs."
The Sikh leaders decided, "Come what may, the Sikhs on foot should climb the hills and the horsemen should cut through the army and march towards Lahore." Going around the hill people the Sikhs fought their way to Kulu and Mandi, reaching Kiratpur in six months.
After the Sikhs on foot had climbed the hills, the Sikh horsemen fell upon the royal Army. In the confusion, one leg of Sardar Sukha Singh was broken by a cannon shell. Harbhajan Rai the son of Lakhpat Rai and Nahar Khan, the son of Yahiya Khan were both killed. Fighting their way through the army, the Sikhs rode towards Lahore. Reaching the river Ravi, they crossed on rafts they made of reeds and grass and returned to Majha. When the Sikhs crossed the river Beas at Sri Hargobindpur they had to face the forces of Adina Beg. After giving him a taste of battle the Sikhs crossed the river Sutlej from the ferry bank at Aliwal and heaved a sigh of relief after entering Malwa in June, 1746.
Durring that two and a half months, seven thousand Sikhs attained martyrdom fighting, while Lakhpat Rai took another three thousand as prisoners to Lahore where he had them tortured to martyrdom.
It is only because of the fact that the next massacre of Sikhs was on a far grander scale that this massacre has come to be known as the Chhota (smaller) Ghallughara.
- 1. Santokh Singh Jagdev "Bed Time Stories."