Wadda Ghalughara

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A painting of one of the two great Massacres of the Sikhs

The first Ghalughara of the Sikhs happened during the waning years of the Mughal Empire. This massacre is known as the Chhotaa Ghallughraa, the “lesser holocaust or massacre”. As such, it is distinguished from the waddaa Ghalughara, The Second Sikh Holocaust (1762), and the more recent carnage of the 1980s and 90s, which has also come to be known as Ghalughara.

Brief History of the Sikhs

The teachings of Guru Nanak (1469-1539) gave birth to Sikhism which had grown to be a distinctive social force, especially after the formation of the Order of Khalsa in 1699. The Khalsa was created, in part, to oppose the tyranny of the Mughal Empire and any other form of injustice. Through much of the early eighteenth century, the Khalsa was outlawed by many of the Muslim rulers of northern India and the Panjab and often was forced to survive by seeking the safety of remote forests, deserts, and the swamplands of the Punjab and neighbouring Kashmir and Rajasthan.

The First Sikh Martyr

Since the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Master, Guru Arjun in 1606, Sikhs had known the use of arms and the need of self-defence. The Sikhs, had largely avoided the reign of terror visited upon the Hindus long before Babar's invitation to India. Their contributions to their places of worship, often in the form of gold, had been easy pickings for the like of men like Babar. And when the Muslims chose to stay, rather than just rob, the Hindu houses of worship had the Murties which to the Muslims smacked of the idols once kept in Makkah's Ka'aba. So while the gentle men of the Sufis were winning many converts to Islam, from mostly the lower castes of the Hindus (who were even kept from studying the Hindu books of worship or even entering the Hindu temples), while the Sunnis often resorted to terror, torture and forced conversions. The Sikhs having no idols in their places of worship and professing faith in One God were largely ignored. Guru Arjan, the essence of a man of God was arrested by Jahangir, but only after envious men of influence in his court like the envious Hindu banker and minister Chandu Shah pushed for his arrest. Jahangir's father Akbar and his father Humayun had been guests of and admirers of the Sikh Gurus (Akbar is even thought to have given the Jagir that grew to be Amritsar and its surrounding villages to the bride of Guru Arjan as a wedding present). Again it was jealousy and the intrigues of the same men that goaded the Mughals into joining them into the first of several (defensive) battles with Guru Hargobind.

Miri Piri

After many years of peace, as the Muslim onslaught continued against the Hindus with forced conversions and rapes, with the Hindu houses of worship being destroyed by the thousands; Masjids were built on the same spot, out of the parts of the destroyed temples. (One of the best early examples of this practice is the Qutub Minar of Delhi). With Aurangzeb seizing the throne and imprisoning his father Shah Jahan, the state policy became the outright destruction of the Hindu religion. It was in defense of this attack on Hinduism that Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed his life to stop Aurangzeb's designs.

His young son Guru Gobind, seeing that Aurangzeb intended to wipe out Hinduism in India he knew that the Sikhs would then be next. He began to redouble the training and arming of the Sikhs. He developed into a poet, scholar and soldier. Seeing the jealousies of the Hindu rulers of the kingdoms that surrounded the town that his father had established, in the foothills of the Sivalik Mountains, he soon accepted the invitation of a friendly Hindu Raja to visit his Kingdom in the North.

Will be adding to this section/ March 17> with paragraphs on the Khalsa, the attacks on Anandpur (its aftermath) and the Battles of Banda Bahadur.

Chhota Ghallughara

The first Ghallughara was a dramatic and bloody massacre during the campaign of Afghanistan's provincial government based at Lahore, which intended to wipe out the Sikhs. Called the Chhota (minor) Ghallughara that took place in 1746, is how a oneday battle between the Dal Khalsa and Ahmad Shah Durrani fought on 5 February 1762 with a heavy toll of life is remembered in Sikh history.

Wadda Ghallughara, estimates of 20,000 to 50,000 Deaths

Site of wadda Ghalughara

The second Ghallughara called the Wadda (major) Ghallughara (|Holocaust) occurred on 5th February 1762 at a place named Kup Rahira, located approximately 12 Km north of Malerkotla in the Punjab state of India.

On receiving information from his informer Akal Das of Jandiala Ahmad Shah Durrani during his sixth invasion of India came to attack and destroy Sikhi down to its roots. Ahmed shah Durani reached Lahore on 3rd Febrary 1762 with a large army, huge armaments and artillery. Recognizing the danger, S. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and S. Charat Singh Sukarchakiya the sikh chiefs left Lahore and proceeded towards Malwa after crossing the Satluj. Singhs were 40000 in number at that time including 10000 women, children and elderly folk. The Singhs wanted to move their women folk to Bikaner for safety. Ahmed Shah instructed Zain Khan his subedar of Sirhand to keep the Singhs engaged till his arrival. They intended to kill them altogether the next day. Bhikhan Khan of Malerkotla also joined Zain Khan.

"Aur shah pe gaye halkare, Singh aaye hain daye hamare;ham itt wal teh rakhen gher,tum in maro hot saver". [1]

Ahmad Shah returning after conquest

As Ahmad Shah was returning home after his historic victory over the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat in 1761, the Sikhs had harassed him all the way from the Sutlej right up to the Indus. Returning to the Central Punjab, they ravaged the country all around, annihilated the Afghan force in Char Mahal, drove away the faujdar of Jalandhar, plundered Sirhind and Malerkotia, defeated a force, 12,000 strong, sent by Ahmad Shah from Afghanistan to punish them and another led personally by the Afghan governor of Lahore, and even captured Lahore, all within a short period, June-September 1761.

At a general assembly (Sarbatt Khalsa) of the Dal at Amritsar convened on the occasion of Divali, 27 October 1761, it was resolved to punish the agents, informers and collaborators of the Afghans, beginning with Aqil Das of Jandiala, head of the heretical Niranjania sect and an inveterate enemy of the Sikhs. Aqil Das despatched messengers posthaste to Ahmad Shah Durrani, who had in fact already entered India at the head of a large army.

Meanwhile, the Sikhs had besieged Jandiala, 18 km east of Amritsar. Aqil Das's messengers met the Shah at Rohtas. The latter advanced at a quick pace but before he reached Jandiala, the Sikhs had lifted the siege and retired beyond the Sutlej with the object of sending their families to the safety of the wastelands of Malva before confronting the invader.

Shah determined to punish Sikhs

Ahmad Shah, on the other hand, determined to teach the Sikhs a lesson, sent messages to Zain Khan, faujdar of Sirhind, and Bhikhan Khan, chief of Malerkotia, directing them immediately to check the Sikhs' advance, while he himself taking a light cavalry force set out at once and, covering a distance of 200 km including two rivercrossings in fewer than fortyeight hours, caught up with the Sikhs who were encamped at Kup Rahira, 12 km north of Malerkotia, at dawn on the 5th of February 1762.

The Dal Khalsa, comprising all of the eleven misis and representatives of the Sikh chiefs of Malva, was taken by surprise. The attacks of Zain Khan and Bhikhan Khan were easily repulsed, but the main body of Ahmad Shah, much larger and better equipped, soon overtook them. Having to protect the slow moving vahir or baggage train including women, children, old men and other noncombatants, the Sikhs could not resort to their usual hitandrun iactics, and a stationary battle against such superior numbers was inadvisable.

On the day of the attack (February 5th ,1762) Zain Khan attacked with his 20000 men and artillery. Abdali also joined the attack with 30000 horsemen. S. jassa Singh and s. Charat singh ordered to encircle their womenfolk and keep proceeding towards Barnala as a war strategy.Singh's only aim was to save their women folk somehow and fight with enemy to inflict maximum losses on their end.In this process singhs suffered heavy casualties.

Many Sikhs killed

Nearly 25000 to 30000 of Singhs lost their lives. S. Jassa Singh was inflicted with 22 wounds and S. Charat Singh with 19. Every one of sikh warriors had been wounded in this fight. Bhai Kahn singh of Nabha writes that Sri Guru Granth Sahib Bir of Damdama sahib wali could not be saved in the battle. But singhs never lost morale even after such a massacre in which more than 70 pecent of them lost their lives.They reorganized themselves very soon and during july 1762 were once again able to surround and besiege Lahore.

Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluvalia, the commander-in-chief of the Dal, therefore, turning down a suggestion by Sardar Charhat Singh Sukkarchakkia to form a solid square of four misis to face the enemy with two misis each protecting either flank of the vahir and balance in reserve, decided that all the misis combining to form a single force should make a cordon round the vahir and start moving towards Barnala, 40 km to the southwest, with the agents of the Malva chiefs acting as guides.

Thus "Fighting while moving and moving while fighting," says Ratan Singh Bhangu, Prachm Panth Prakash, on the authority of his father and an uncle who had taken part in this battle, "they kept the vahir marching, covering it as a hen covers its chickens under its wings." On several occasions, the Shah's troops broke the cordon and butchered the helpless noncombatants, but every time the Sikh warriors reformed and pushed back the attackers.

The Sikhs march towards Barnala

By early afternoon they reached a big pond, the first they had come across since the morning. The fighting stopped automatically as the two forces fell pellmell, man and animal, upon the water to quench their thirst and relax their tired limbs. The battle was not resumed. The Sikhs marched off towards Barnala and Ahmad Shah thought it prudent not to pursue them in the little known semi-desert with an army that had had no rest during the past two days and had suffered considerable loss of life in the daylong battle.

Estimates of the Sikhs' loss of life vary from 20,000 to 50,000. The more credible figures are those of Miskin, a contemporary Muslim chronicler, who estimated 25,000, and Ratan Singh Bhangu, who give the toll at 30,000. This could have been a crippling blow to the Sikhs, but such was the state of their morale that, to quote the Prachm Panth Prakash again, as the Sikhs gathered in the evening that day, a Nihang stood up and proclaimed aloud, "... the fake has been shed; the true Khalsa remains intact."

The Sikhs rose again within three months to attack Zain Khan of Sirhind, who bought peace by paying them Rs 50,000 in May, and they were ravaging the neghbourhood of Lahore during July-August 1762, Ahmad Shah, who was still in the Punjab, watching helplessly the devastation of the Jalandhar Doab at their hands.

External links


1. Sri guru Panth Prakash, Bhai Ratan singh Bhangu, ed. 1994, page 451