Banda Singh Bahadur
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Banda Singh Bahadur
Before reading about Banda Singh Bahadur, just ask yourself that have you ever heard before this name. After reading him, think that whose fault is this that you are unaware about the name of the Man whose greatness is much bigger than Napoleon of France, Hannibal first Caesar of Rome, Alfred of England and any other European conqueror. How big would be that father whose sons liver is put in his mouth during torture and he remains their sitting in peace and only taking god’s name .Such a great man cannot be a normal human being he surely might be some pure divine soul.
Baba Banda Singh bahadur famous sikh general was such a great warrior. The executioner tried everything to break Baba Ji but nothing broke him. Banda Singh was given a short sword and ordered to kill his own son Ajai Singh. As he sat unperturbed, the cxecutioner moved forward and plunged his sword into the little child cutting the body into two. Then pieces of flesh were cut from the body and thrown in Banda’s face. His liver was removed and thrust into Banda Singh’s mouth. The father sat through all this without any signs of emotion. His powers of endurance were to be tested still further.
The executioner then stepped forward and thrust the point of his dagger into Banda’s right eye, pulling out the eyeball. He then pulled out the other eyeball. Banda sat through all this as still as a rock. His face gave no twitch of pain.”The cruel devil then took his sword and slashed off Banda’s left foot, then both his arms. But Banda’s features were still calm as if he was at peace with his Creator. Finally they tore off his flesh with red-hot pincers, and there being nothing else left in their book of tortures, they cut his body up into a hundred pieces, and were satisfied. (These details of the torture are given in full, by the following writers: Mohammed Harisi, Khafi Khan, Thornton, Elphinstone, Daneshwar and others).
Banda’s original name was Lachhman Dev. He was born in October-November 1670, Rajouri (J&K) four years after the birth of Guru Gobind singh. He was a Rajput cultivator. By the time he was just turned 20, his astonishing mind was set on its task. He had a reputation of being a great hunter. Once he hunted a pregnant deer. The dying animal gave birth to two kids who died in front of his eyes. Lachhman was shocked to the core of his heart and thus became a sadhu. He became a disciple of many but none could provide him peace of mind. Later, he inclined to tantric sadhus and acquired some riddhis and siddhis (miracle powers). Thus, he became quite popular among simpletons, near the area around his ashram on the bank of river Godavari. Though, none benefitted from his powers, he used them to humiliate religious leaders and other saints who ever happened to visit his ashram. Whenever, any such saint visited, he would overturn the cot using his powers. Guru Gobind Singh after leaving Punjab travelled towards South India along with some Sikhs, visited Lachhman Das’s ashram and sat on his cot in his absence. Accepting defeat, Lachhman Das Bairagi fell at the feet of Guru Gobind Singh and sought forgiveness and said, “O, Guru Ji, I am your Banda. Show me the right path.”
Guru Gobind Singh taught him the basic principles of Sikhsim and baptised him. Lachhman was given the name ‘Banda Singh’. He transformed from a proud bairagi to a humble and brave Sikh of Guru. Banda Singh is known to have abolished or halted the Zamindari system in the time he was active and gave the farmers proprietorship of their own land. It seems that all classes of government officers were addicted to extortion and corruption and the whole system of regulatory and order was subverted. Guru sent Banda Singh on a mission to Punjab to punish the guilty and cruel rulers of the time. He was also provided with five brave Sikhs as advisors and necessary weapons. Banda Singh was soon joined by thousands of Sikhs in his crusade against the wicked rulers. Within a short span of time, Sikhs under Banda Singh’s leadership put an end to life of many tyrant rulers, including Nawab Wazir Khan, the main culprit behind death of younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji . Banda Singh captured large part of Punjab and established Sikh rule there. He also minted coins in the name of Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh. In the meantime, Faruksiyar became Delhi’s emperor. Angered by defeat at the hands of Banda Singh and Sikh forces, he sent a large force from Delhi and mobilized from elsewhere in Punjab to defeat and capture Banda Singh.
Sikhs were surrounded by large number of Mughal forces in the fortress of Gurdas Nagal. They fought valiantly under Banda Singh’s command. They fought valiantly but due to depleting ration, they ultimately became too weak to fight with the enemies. Ultimately, the brave general Banda Singh Bahadur was arrested along with seven hundred Sikh soldiers and brought to Delhi, after eight months. Inside the fortress, Sikhs survived on leaves, trees, and even bark of trees.With the martyrdom of Banda, Khalsa leadership was taken up by new warriors like Baba Deep Singh, Nawab Kapur Singh, Chhajja Singh, Bhuma Singh, Hari Singh Dhillon, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Budh Singh, Naudh Singh and Charhat Singh Sukerchakia and others. Within ninety years, Mahraja Ranjit Singh had established Sikh kingdom.
No doubt, Banda Singh was immortalised forever in the history of Sikhs, he is also known and much celebrated in Bengal after Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote a poem titled ‘Bandi Bir’.
Banda Singh Bahadur ruled only for 6 to 7 years. This broke the yoke of 700 years rule of the invading forces from the Arab countries. Their myth of power was broken by him. The sacrifices of Banda Singh and his men did not discourage the Sikhs but prepared them for the worst future fights. Passing through very difficult times for the next 40 years, the Sikhs ruled at Lahore under the leadership of Nawab Kapoor Singh and then by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia in 1756. Later on they ruled all over Punjab in the form of 12 Sikh Misels (groups) under different names. This ultimately led to establish Khalsa Raj under Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1799 AD. On the eve of 300 years martyrdom of Baba Banda Bahadur, a Shaheedi Yatra started on May 31, 2016 from Dera Baba Banda Bahadur Reasi and will reach Shahidiasthan Mehroli Delhi on June 9.Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s 10th successor Baba Jatinder Singh Sodhi will lead the Yatra.
A tribute to Banda Bahadur
Rich tributes have been / are being paid to the legendary Sikh General Banda Singh Bahadur on his 300th martyrdom year. Various programmes and events have been held to highlight the contributions made by him not only for the Sikhs but for the cause of Social Justice. The Punjab and Haryana Governments participated whole heartedly in showcasing the life of Banda Singh Bahadur as also his contribution not only to the Sikhs but the society in general. Nagar Kirtans were also held in other places including his Birth state Jammu and Kashmir.
Accounts on the life of Banda Singh Bahadur have been written elaborately by renowned historians and writers. However, I have taken reference form the book “Historical Sikh Shrines of Jammu and Kashmir authored by Commodore Dalbir Singh Sodhi and would like to present some important aspects that clearly define the Magnanimous character of Banda Singh Bahadur. He was born on 27 Oct 1670 in the Rajouri district of Jammu province and was named Lachmen Dev. At the young age of 15 he left home to become an ascetic. This transformation happened as a result of him hunting a doe and seeing the mother and her aborted fawns writhing in pain and dying. Having spent considerable time with ascetic bairagi Janaki Prasad (who named him Madho Das) and later with Augarh Nath, he traveled to Nanded. In September 1708 , he met Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Nanded . Guru Gobind Singh baptised him with Amrit and gave him the name Banda Singh. Guru Ji tasked him to go to Punjab and fight against the atrocities being committed by the Mughals. As symbol of authority, the Guru gave him five arrows from his own quiver, a Nishan Sahib and a Nagara. The Guru also sent a council of Five Pyaras and twenty more Sikhs. Banda Singh’s strength lay in the Hukamnamas of Guru Gobind Singh to various Sikh Sangats asking them to extend support to Banda Singh. Armed with the blessings and Authority of Guru Gobind Singh Ji , he assembled a fighting force and led the struggle against the Mughal Empire. Banda Singh Bahadur led several successful military campaigns against the Mughals in Punjab and then proceeded to Samana. Samana was the home town of sayed Jalal-ud-din , who had executed Guru Teg Bahadur as also of Shahal Beg who had carried out the execution of the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh. On 26 Nov 1709, Banda Singh carried out a lightening assault on Samana and a fierce battle was fought. After concurring Samana, Banda Singh made Bhai Fateh Singh the commander of the town and stormed Ghuram, Thaska and Mustabad. On 22 May 1710, Banda Singh attacked Sirhind and killed Wazir Khan.
Banda Singh then captured Sadhaura and chose the fort of Mukhlispur (built in the time of emperor Shah Jahan) as capital of the emerging Sikh state. Banda Singh restored the crumbling citadel and renamed it Lohgarh . He hoisted the flag of the Khalsa on its ramparts. In order to give Lohgarh added authority as the administrative capital of their territories, an official seal and coins were issued to celebrate the Sikh rule. Whereas, Mughal emperors issued Seals and coins under their names, Banda Singh on the other hand issued coins and his Seal in the name of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh.
Persian inscription on the coin issued by Banda Singh read
Sikkah Zad Bar Har Do Alam Tegh-i-Nanak Wahib Ast
Fateh Gobind Singh Shah -i- Shahan
Fazal-i-Sacha Sahib Ast
Coins struck for the two worlds with the sword of Nanak and the Victory granted by the grace of Gobing Singh, King of Kings and the true Emperor.
Words on the other side of the coin read
Zarb ba Aman-ud-Dahar
Masawarat Shahar Zinat-ut-Takth-i-Mubarikh Bahht
Struck in the heaven of refuge, the beautiful city, the ornament of the blessed throne.
The official Seal had inscription
Degh O Tegh O Fateh O Nusrat-i-Bedirang
Yaft Az Nanak Guru Gobind Singh
The inscription eulogised the kettle (representing Sikh commitment to feed the poor) The Sword (the symbol of power) , Victory and unqualified patronage as attributes bequeathed by Nanak to Guru Gobind.
The mughals after consolidation (with a huge army) carried out attack on Sadhaura. After a prolonged battle, Banda Singh eluded capture and went into the hills. Banda Singh stayed in the hills of Jammu at Riasi (from Oct 1713 to Feb 1715) on the banks of River Chenab consolidating his forces and waiting for a favourable opportunity to strike for the freedom of his people. Banda Singh Bahadur finally attained Martyrdom at Mehrauli on 9 June 1716.
Some of the landmark qualities and attributes that define the magnanimity, integrity, devotion and commitment of Banda Singh Bahadur are as follows:-
(a) Banda Singh Bahadur was personally chosen and baptised by Guru Gobind Singh Ji to fight against the atrocities being committed by the Mughals.
(b) He laid the foundation of the Sikh empire in the year 1710.
(c) Though he fought back against religious persecution of Hindus and Sikhs , he allowed Muslims to practice their faith fearlessly in the boundaries of Sikh nation.
(d) He raised the lowest of the low to the highest position in his government.
(e) He introduced greatest fiscal reforms by abolishing the Zamindari system of the Mughals that had reduced the cultivators to the position of slaves.
(f) He honoured the preaching of Guru Gobind Singh in that during one of his military campaigns he did not plunder the village Maler Kotla since its Ruler Sher Muhammed had advocated mercy for the children of Guru Gobind Singh at the time of their execution in Sirhind.
(g) He placed before the people practical demonstration of Supreme Sacrifice to uphold the cause of Social Justice.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir has the distinction of being a multifaceted secular state with a unique cultural blend. Jammu and Kashmir is not only the land of magnetism and picturesque beauty; it is the land of art, music, passion and courage as well. The State of Jammu and Kashmir is proud of some of the personalties who have proved their mettle in their respective fields and made history. I consider that one of such courageous and great Secular minded personality who has not been given the due recognition by the State is the great Sikh Icon Banda Singh Bahadur who has the distinction of being blessed by the Tenth Sikh Guru Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji . Whereas, The Governments of Punjab and Haryana have made memorials in the name of Banda Singh Bahadur, the Delhi Govt paid rich tributes to the Sikh general this year by naming the Barapullah flyover as Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Setu. This is the high time that the State Government acknowledges the immense contribution of the Son of the soil Banda Singh Bahadur by constructing a memorial befitting the stature of S. Banda Singh Bahadur.
Jammu province is known for fairs and festivals from the ancient history. The holy land of this province is known for organizing the fairs and festivals near sacred rivers and holy shrines.
Celebration of fairs and festivals in different areas of Jammu region indicates the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the province. Our rich cultural heritage adds charm and vibrancy in our lives. The people from every nook and corner of the state and country participate in these mega events with enthusiasm. The celebration of such events helps to unite the people from all the religions and castes without any discrimination. These fairs and festivals help us to showcase the rich culture of the region at national and international level. Dera Baba is a religious place of high esteem, a great tourist destination and best health resort in a beautiful hilly district of J&K state. At a distance of about 20 kms from Reasi and 28 kms from world famous place Katra , this beautiful place is full of holy vibrations. Dera Baba is surrounded by lofty peaks, ice cold water of the Chenab River, green meadows on its bank and dense forests on the hills. The sacred river Chenab passes through this area and flows down to Akhnoor. Dera Baba is visited by the pilgrims throughout the year. Basically, Reasi district boasts of various religious places such as Vaishno Devi Shrine, Shiv Khori Shrine, Baba Dansar, Siarh Baba, Nau Devian, Mahadev etc. These places are of great religious importance. There are various other religious places in this district which are not connected by road and remain unknown to the outside world. If connected with each other by road, they can also attract more and more tourists from far and wide.
Baisakhi or Basoa in local parlance is a historical and religious festival in Sikhism and Hinduism. Every year it is celebrated on April 13 or 14 throughout the country. Baisakhi marks the Sikh New Year and commemorates the formation of Khalsa panth under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. It is additionally a spring harvest festival for the Sikhs and the Hindus. Baisakhi is also an ancient festival of the Hindus, marking the Solar New Year. It marks the sacredness of rivers in the Hindu culture. It is regionally known by many names, but celebrated in broadly similar ways. Reasi district of J&K is famous for various fairs and festivals and these types of events add to social, economic and religious needs of the inhabitants. These types of events help us to preserve and transmit our rich culture. Baisakhi Mela at Dera Baba is a three days grand religious which is attended by thousands of devotees from India and abroad.
To reach Dera Baba, one has to travel a distance of about 80 Kilometers from Jammu by bus or private vehicle. Firstly one has to reach at Simbol Choa which is at a distance of 10 km from Dera Baba and then by auto, metador or personal vehicle. The road is in good condition and the vehicles can easily pass through the charming hills. The district administration does all security and other arrangements for the pilgrims. The Mela displays all the belongings of the Baba. On this occasion, the pilgrims take a holy bath in the Chenab River. This is the holy place where Baba Banda Bahadur has spent his time in meditation. There is a historical Gurudwara known as Darbar Sahib. Here Gurbani from Guru Granth Sahib is recited regularly according to Mariyada, in morning and evening every day. There is a saffron coloured flag (Nishan Sahib), one piece of deodar log with a sword at top, about 50 feet high, hoisted by Baba Banda Bahadur in 1715 AD which bears testimony to the bravery and high ideals of this great saint warrior. There is an old Ber tree (Ber Sahib) in the compound of Gurdwara.
Under this tree (Ber) Baba Banda Bahadur meditated to be in direct communion with God. There are four Banyan trees around this shrine where, it is believed that BIRS of Baba Banda Bahadur still reside. Presently, Baba Jatinder Paul Singh Sodhi, the 10th descendant of Dera Baba Banda Bahadur is carrying out the mission of his ancestors. He is the main organizer of this mega event on Baisakhi. With full fervor. A great congregation of pilgrims is held on Baisakhi festival. Special rooms have been constructed there for the stay of pilgrims. Baba Jatinder Paul Singh Sodhi campaigns for inter-religious tolerance to promote communal harmony. In order to achieve this goal, a large number of samarks, gurudwaras, schools, dispensaries and other centres have been set up in different parts of the country. With his relentless efforts, a black-top road has been constructed from Simbol Choa to Dera Baba. Electricity and water supply is also provided to the visiting pilgrims. This place has become a source of attraction for the pilgrims from all over the country and abroad.
Baisakhi Mela at Dera Baba witnesses great hustle and bustle during three-day festival as pilgrims’ families and various groups belonging to diverse communities and hailing from different parts of the country and abroad assemble were. People from every nook and corners also visit this spot throughout the year and enjoy the unique place of spirituality. Apart from large number of kiosks of eatables and merchants displaying their wares for sale, which include trinkets to new popular electronics gadgets. The fair also presents hosts of entertainments for every age group of people. Most of the stalls of eatables especialty Jalebi and Pakoras, which is a specialty of the mela, are being run by local people. Other than the shopkeepers, the local transporters like matador and bus owners also earn extra income by bringing large number of pilgrims to the mela site. While ‘dangals’- the Indian style wrestling matches organised this occasion, draw a large crowd of sport enthusiasts. The Baisakhi Mela at Dera Baba is one of the most attended fairs in Reasi district.