Ahmad Shah Abdali's invasions

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Ahmed Shah had accompanied Nadir Shah to India when the Shah of Persia had sacked Delhi in 1739. He had seen the weakness of the once great Moghul empire and its powerless ruler Mohammad Shah. Afganistan was a barren land with few natural resources, its only claim to fame had been its once rich deposits of Lapis-Lazuli. To pay their armies the rulers of divided Afganistan had, for hundreds of years, depended on raids and stealing the products, wealth and people of India. At first these raids were hit and run affairs — hit the ancient temples and run with the gold, silver, jewels and of course the people of India who were dragged across the Hindu Kush and sold as slaves. Even Babur missed the cooler climate, the mountains and streams, of Afganistan he found little of beauty in India, no good fish or fruits.

After Nadir Shah's assassination in 1747, Ahmad Shah, chief of the Abdali clan, rose to power and established himself as the ruler of independent Afghanistan breaking away from Persia. He took the title Durr-i-Durran, (pearl of pearls). His clan was thereafter called the Durrani. So to sustain and pay his army Ahmad Shah once again traversed the mountainous passes into India seeking wealth, fame and glory. But more than merely raiding India for loot he sought to re-establish the Former Afgan Kingdom of India which had flourished before the return of Humayun and the Mughals.

He first attacked Peshawar driving out the Mughal governor, Nasir Khan, in October of 1747. As an officer in Nadir Shah's army Ahmad Shah had witnessed the weakness of Mohammad Shah and seen the rebellious attitudes of the Grandis of the Moghul Court. So it came as no surprise when he, just about then, received an invitation from Shah Nawaz Khan to invade and annex the provinces of Multan, Kashmir and Lahore, saying that he would co-operate fully in this campaign in return for his own confirmation as governor of Lahore.

Ahmad Shah Durr-i-Durran invited to Lahore

So with the promise of a welcomed reception Ahmed Shah set out from Peshawar, in December, 1747 and arrived soon at the Indus river-crossing at Attock. From there, he sent his messenger to Lahore, but the man was given a rough reception by Shah Nawaz, who had, by that time, had a change of heart. He had been won over by the Delhi minister with an offer of confirmation in his appointment as the Governor of Lahore. Thus, when Ahmed Shah reached the bank of the Ravi on 8th January, 1748, the Lahore army of 70,000 prepared to oppose the 'invited' invader.

The Pathans crossed over on the 10th of January and the battle was joined on the 11th. Ahmed Shah had only 30,000 horsemen, and no artillery. But during the battle, a force of 5,000 Pathans of Qasoor under Jamal Khan defected to Abdali's side. With the extra inforcements, which robbed Shah Nawaz of his only well trained cavalry, he was able to crush the remaining, poorly trained, forces of Lahore. Shah Nawaz made a wise decision and quickly fled to Delhi. Adina Beg and his forces, who had been brought up from Jalandhar to meet the attack, was equally fast in running to the Jalandar area.

The Once Invited Guest enters Lahore as a Conqueror

Ahmed Shah entered the city on the 12th January 1748, and set free Moman Khan and Lakhpat Rai. With a revenge filled heart, he then ordered a general massacre of the populace. Towards evening, prominent leaders of the city including Surat Singh and the newly freed Moman Khan and Lakhpat Rai had collected a sum of three million rupees and offered it as expenses to Abdali, for his troubles, requesting him to put an end to the looting and slaughter. Appeased by the offer Ahmed Shah moved to calm the slaughter and looting and appointed Jamal Khan of Qasoor, Governor of Lahore. Lakhpat Rai was appointed as the new Govenor's Diwan (minister). With law and order restored in Lahore he set out towards Delhi by February 18.

The Afgan move on Delhi turns into an Afgan Retreat

Meanwhile Qamar-ud-din Khan collected an army of 200,000 and marched towards Sirhind which was reached on 25th February. Here he found that the Rohela commander of Sirhind, Mohammed Khan had fled into the hills on hearing about the advance of Ahmed Shah. Qamar-ud-din left his baggage and his begums under the protection of 1,000 men at Sirhind and advanced towards Machhiwara in search of the Afgan forces. Meanwhile Ahmed Shah crossed the river Sutluj at Phillaur on March 1 under cover of darkness. He reached Sirhind the next day to find city the seemingly undefended, save for the 1,000 men left guarding Qamar-ud-din's baggage and Harem. The Begums of the Khan.

On hearing about the capture of his begums, Qamar-ud-din hastened back to Sirhind, and on the 11th of March, 1748, the two armies clashed in battle at Manudur. Qamar-ud-Din was killed in one of a series of skirmishes that went on for some days. His son Muin-ul-Mulk (Mir Manu for short) now took the lead. He and his men made such a furious charge that Abdali's men, overwhelmed with fear, turned and fled. By 17th of March, Abdali was recrossing the Sutluj and heading with haste towards Lahore, with Mir Manu's forces following him, at a safe distance behind.

The Infighting of the Muslims Prove Fortunate for the Sikhs

This chain of events proved very beneficial for the Sikhs, who lost no time in making the most of what must have been seen as a gift from Suchkhand (Heaven).

During his 15 months as Lahore's Govenor Yayha Khan had tried his best to annihilate the Sikhs racing any memory of them from the face of the earth. But after October 1746, his energies were diverted to his own welfare on account of the activities of Shah Nawaz and Adina Beg. Shah Nawaz Khan was too preoccupied with the confirmation of his command over the Punjab by the Minister at Delhi, to give the Sikhs much trouble. Then when the Afghan threat loomed in January 1748, he had called up Adina Beg from Jalandhar, leaving the Sikhs completely free to raid and occupy large tracts of land in both the Jalandhar and the Bari Doabs. During the two months that Abdali spent marching down from Lahore to the battle at Manupur, the Sikhs were busy taking control of the countryside, and chastising those choudhries who had been rewarded by turning in the hunted Sikhs for execution.

Rama Randhawa of Ghanayan, Harbhagat of Jandiala, Dharamdas of Jodh Nagar, Sanmukh Rai of Wadali, the Khatris of Patti, and the Ranghars of Sheikhupura were amongst those that were put to the sword. Village headmen would, from this point, know that they could inform on the Sikhs only at their own peril.

Amritsar once again in Sikhs' Hands

Whilst Abdali was engaged at Manupur, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia's band swooped upon Amritsar, which was under the charge of Salabat Khan. When their commander was slain the occupying forces fled, leaving the city and its holy tank once again in the hands of the Sikhs. The partly earth-filled tank was soon cleaned, and the Sikhs were free to take their ablutions in peace.

When Abdali began his retreat from Manupur in March 1748, Sikh bands under Jassa Singh, Charhat Singh and Karora Singh gave him a taste of the same guerilla raids that had plagued the rear of Nadir Shah's retreating columns. Mir Manu followed too far behind to bother Ahmed Shah. The Sikhs would swoop down on Abdali's camp late at night, a time that Muslims feared since their Rasul had spoken of dreading it, and make away with stolen treasure, baggage, horses and even prosoners. They continued with this harassment 'till he reached the banks of the Chenab.

Here they stopped because Vaisakhi day that year fell on the 29th of March, and they wished to celebrate it at Amritsar.

This was the first Vaisakhi they had celebrated after many years, in complete Freedom, and it also marked a new phase in the organization of the Dal Khalsa. The CHHOTA GHALLUGHARA (the lesser holocaust) of 1746 had pointed out the weakness of jathas (small groups) fighting under separate leaders without a central command.