Sikhs - Noor Mohammad

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The "Jangnama", often touted as an eye-witness account of Ahmad Shah Durrani's invasion of the Panjab in 1764, is a personal account of the invasion as penned by Noor Mohammad a resident of Ganjuba in Baluchistan who had once been the Qazi of Ganjuba, a post which he had inherited from his father Abdullah Hilwar. The "Jangnama is essentially the only extensive account of the invasion. Noor Mohammad had pretentions to living his live as a a man of learning, he was a scholar of Persian and a learned poet. His fame as a man of letters led to the ruler of the city of Kalat, Mir Abdullah Khan asking him to consider compiling a book of poetry extolling his achievements. This venture, however, had to be abandoned, most likely because of the death of Khan.

In 1761, he traveled to Kalat seeking support from Nasir Khan, the successor of Abdullah Khan who was seriously thinking of leading a crusade against the Sikhs whose growing power was causing anxiety to Ahmed Shah Durrani and the Baluchis.

Nur Muhammed offered to accompany Nasir Khan on his possible jihad, requesting the Khan appoint him as the Qazi in Shikarpore. (some say it was the Deras) Nasir Khan accepted his offer and he accompanied the expeditionary force which joined the forces of Ahmed Shah Durrani in the winter of 1764. He was thus an eye-witness to all engagements and his narration of the events is based on his personal observations. On his return to Ganjuba on the conclusion of the expedition, Nur Muhammed completed the Jang Namah towards the close of Al-Hijari corresponding to about June 1765. Apparently Durrani's exploits were recounted in a manner very flattering to Durrani's legacy for Qazi Noor Mohammad was bestowed the territories, he had sought as a reward for his services.

The work consists of 55 statements called "Bian" in Persian - each dealing with some event, personality, racial group, tactics of war, or the behaviour of the Sikhs.

The author's strong hatred for the Sikhs, is clearly evidenced in his references to them as dogs, dogs of hell, pig eaters, accursed infidels, dirty idolators, fire worshippers, etc., yet his account of the character of the Sikhs of the eighteenth century has proved to be invaluable to students of history. His lavish praise of his mentor and his invasion, which laudes both the Baluchis and the Pathans, often deprives this historical narrative of its objectivity.

All these things minimize the historical value of the work. Yet, inspite of this, it is a very valuable and correct corroboration in respect of the Sikhs' struggle against the Afghani invaders, which mentions the desecration by the Durranis of the holy tank and temple, the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) at Amritsar and the martyrdom of Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Shahid with his band of 30 Sikhs who valiantly challenged an army of 30,000 Afghanis and Baluchis and sacrificed their lives on the 'altar of their faith'.

It is from the Jang Namah alone that we learn that the Sikhs under the Bhangis had crossed the Indus and had extended their conquest as far as Multan and Deras by the middle of 1764 in a few months after the conquest of Sirhind. Moreover, Jang Namah is the only detailed account, known to us, of the seventh invasion of Punjab by Ahmed Shah Durrani.

So far as the Sikhs are concerned Jang Namah is an invaluable source of information. It visualises Sikhism and Sikh society as a separate entity, different from Hinduism.

The conviction of Nur Muhammed was fully shared by his mentors, and perhaps, this was the reason that Ahmed Shah Abdali's anger was directed against Darbar Sahib which was the chief source of inspiration to the Sikhs.

The Sikhs offered resistance to Ahmed Shah Abdali in the manner that evoked praise even in the hearts of their detractors. Nur Muhammed inspite of his sympathy for his comrades-in-faith and hatred for the Sikhs could not help describing their excellent conduct, their experience in battlefield, their liberality and their valour, intrepedity, agility and grand physical appearance. This he did most probably to impress upon the soldiers of the invading armies that Sikhs were strong enough to withstand their onslaught because in moral conduct they were excellent and none surpassed them.

In his account, he dwells on the qualities of the Sikhs about which every Sikh should feel proud. We present a liberal translation of Qazi Nur Muhammed's narration which elucidates their (Sikhs) high conduct, their mode of fighting, their faith and courage, etc:

"Do not call the dogs (the Sikhs) dogs, because they are lions (and) are courageous like lions in the battlefield. How can a hero, who roars like a lion be called a dog? (Moreover) like lions they spread terror in the field of battle. If you wish to learn the art of war, come face to face with them in the battlefield. They will demonstrate it (art of war) to you in such a way that one and all will shower praise on them. If you wish to learn the science of war, O swordsman, learn from them. They advance at the enemy boldly and come back safely after action. Understand, Singh is their title, a form of address for them. It is not justice to call them dogs; if you do not know Hindustani language, then understand that the word 'Singh' means a lion.

"Truly, they are lion in battle, and at times of peace, they surpass "Hatim" (in generosity). When they take the Indian sword in their hands they traverse the country from Hind to Sind. None can stand against them in battle, howsoever strong he may be. When they handle the spear, they shatter the ranks of the enemy. When they raise the heads of their spears towards the sky, they would pierce even through the Caucasus (in the process). When the adjust the strings of the bows, place in them the enemy killing arrows (and) pull the strings to their ears, the body of the enemy begins to shiver with fear. When their battle axes fall upon the armour of their opponents, their armour becomes their coffin.

"The body of every one of them is like a piece of rock and in physical grandeur everyone of them is more than fifty men. It is said that Behram Gore killed wild asses and lions. But if he were to come face to face with them even he would bow before them (Singhs). Besides usual arms, they take their guns in hand (and) come into the field of action jumping (and) roaring like lions and raise slogans. They tear asunder the chests of many and shed blood of several (of their enemy) in the dust. You say that musket is a weapon of ancient times, it appears to be a creation of these dogs rather than Socrates. Who else than these (dogs) can be adept in the use of muskets. They do not bother (even if) there are innumerable muskets. To the right and the left, in front and towards the back, they go on operating hundreds of muskets angrily and regularly.

"If you do not believe in what I say, you may enquire of the brave swordsmen who would tell you more than myself and would praise them for their fighting. This bears witness to (my statement) that they faced thirty thousand heroes in the battlefield. If their armies take to flight, it is a war tactics of theirs. They resort to this deception in order to make the angry army grow bold and run in their pursuit. When they find them separated from the main body and away from help and reinforcement, they at once turn back and fight more ferociously (literal translation - they set fire even to water).

"Did you not see that while fighting the Pathans, they took to flight which was deceptive. A world famous wrestler wielding high esteem and respect alighted from his horse and showed his great style as if he were Tuhmatan ( a great warrior of Iran). O valiant fighter, do justice to their (act of ) war. One of their armies invaded Multan and put the city to plunder and devastation and killed many of its inhabitants and carried away an immense booty. I am not sufficiently strong in mind to express what the dogs did there. But as God willed it, each of us has to submit to His Will.

"Besides their fighting, listen to one more thing in which they excell all other warriors. They never kill a coward who is running away from the battlefield. They do not rob a woman of her wealth or ornaments whether she is rich or a servant ("Kaneez"). There is no adultry among these dogs, nor are they mischieveous people. A woman, whether young or old, they call a "Burhi". The word Burhi, means in Indian language, an old lady. There is no thief amongst these dogs, nor is there amongst them any mean people. They do not keep company with adulters and house thiefs though all their acts may not be commendable.

"If you are not acquainted with their religion, I tell you that the Sikhs are the disciples of the Guru - that glorious Guru lived at Chak (Amritsar). The ways and manners of these people were laid down by Nanak who showed these Sikhs a separate path. He was succeeded by Guru Gobind Singh from whom they received the title of Singh. They are not part of the Hindus, who have a separate religion of their own.

"Now that you have familiarised yourself with the behaviour of the Sikhs, you may also know something about their country. They have divided the Punjab amongst themselves and have bestowed it upon every young and old"