Battle of Sarsa

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Background of the Battle

After their defeat of their allied army in 1699, the Rajput hill chiefs appealed to the Emperor in Delhi for help against the Khalsa. Aurangzab, who was then in Dekkhan (south India), ordered the viceroys of Sarhind and Lahore to march against the Guru. The Sikhs fought as they had never fought before and held their ground for three years against the repeated attacks of the combined Hindu and Mughal forces. By the winter of 1704 with stores of supplies running out due to the protracted siege and with the water supply to the fort cut off as well the Sikhs were suffering great hardships facing starvation and certain death. Both the Guru's favorite horse and famous Elephant Prasadi died of starvation. Efforts were made to convince the Guru to leave to no avail. One day 40 Sikhs came to the Guru asking for permission to escape, the Guru told them that if they wished to go against his wishes they would have to disclaim him and cease being Sikhs. They were asked to sign a paper stating their separation fron the Guru and their fellow Sikhs. It is said their wives and families disowned them when they got to their homes and related their tales of deserting their master.

A Promise of Safety

The remaining Sikhs chose to stay with the Guru. The Guru's mind was as firm as ever in his determination to hold the ground, but the repeated appeals made by his mother and other Sikhs, and the guarantee made for their safety signed by Aurangzeb, who is said to have relayed a message to the Guru stating his admiration for the Sikhs' valliant defense of Anandpur, a promise of safe passage sworn to on the Muslims' Holy Qur'an and the Rajputs' revered Gita. But the Guru placed little trust in the promise of safety and sent a message to Wazir Khan saying he would send out his valuables on several wagons and if he saw them pass through the enemies lines then he and all the Sikhs would also leave the city. The solemn oath was reconfirmed. But, instead of jewels and valuables, the wagons were loaded with refuse and trash covered in rich brocades and shawls. Just as the Guru suspected the wagons were attacked as soon as they reached the Muslim lines.

Seeing this the Sikhs layed waste to their city. Burying what could not be burned Guru Gobind Singh and the remaining Sikhs abandoned their beloved city under cover of darkness on December 20, 1704. Departing from Anandpur, the Sikhs were divided into two groups. The Guru's mother and two younger sons and other women of the household, along with all the manuscripts prepared by the Gurus and their scholars, left in the first group with 200 armed horsemen to protect them under the command of Uday Singh. They were to follow the direct road to Ropar, where the Guru planned to rejoin them. Guru Gobind Singh Ji left soon afterwards with his two elder sons, the Panj Piaare and 400 other soldiers.

The Battle

The Guru's camp had not yet reached the bank of the river Sarsa (15km from Anandpur) when they were attacked by a very large and strong Mughal force. While the Guru's group was heavily engaged in the battle, another contingent launched an assault on the first group, halting them on the river bank. Fierce fighting ensued in the midst of rain, cold, and darkness. Total confusion prevailed. When the allied troops attacked the rear Guard of Baba Ajit Singh, Uday Singh recieved permission to relieve him. He fought fiercely but eventually was surrounded by a large number of enemies and became a martyr. Seeing the mughal forces advancing, some daring Sikhs pushed their horses in the swirling waters of the Sarsa and carried the Guru's family safely across the river separating themselves from the Guru. In the confusion that ensued, all the Guru's baggage, including some very precious manuscripts, were lost in the turbulent waters of the Sarsa.

The Sikhs suffered heavy losses. Most of the soldiers were killed during the battle, many more perished fording the river. When Guru Gobind Singh reached the far bank, he was left with his two elder sons, the panj piaare, and 35 other sikhs. Just 42 of the 400 brave Sikhs who had left Anandpur along with their Guru were left. From there Guru Ji proceeded to Ropar (23km from Sarsa) where news reached him that a mughal force of 100,000 was advancing from Sarhind and Sarsa. Upon hearing this, Guru Ji and his 42 Sikhs were offered refuge in a thick stone walled two story haveli surrounded with a high wall. Here the battle of Chamkaur Sahib took place.

The 40 Apostates Become the Chali Mukte

Later driven by their shame and rallied by Mai Bhago the 40 men, who had denied their Guru and left Anandpur, returned to seek out their Guru and beg his forgiveness. Travelling across the Malva region they stopped near the dhab or lake of Khidrana where an imperial army, in pursuit of Guru Gobind Singh, had almost overtaken him. In what came to be known as the Battle Of Muktsar. The 40 apostates died saving their beloved Guru. He renamed them the Chali Mukte the (Forty Immortals). After their brave deaths Khidrana too was renamed Muktsar, (Pool of Liberation).