Bandha Singh Bahadur Ji
The man who shook the Mughal empire to its very roots.

In 1708 while on his travels in the Deccan Guru Gobind Singh Ji had tried for many months to persuade emperor Bahadur Shah to take action against Wazir Khan who had committed such atrocities against the Sikhs and had executed Guru Ji’s two youger sons Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji as well as their grandmother Mata Gujri Ji. As the discussions bore no fruit Guru Ji continued with the negotiations but decided to send one of his followers back to the Punjab to do the work. Although there were many old and trusted disciples the choice fell on a comparative stranger whom Guru Ji had met just a few weeks. His name was Lashman Das, who had spent the last fifteen years of his life as a sadhu on the banks of the River Godavari.

Born in 1670 at Rajauri to well off Rajput parents Lashman Das grew up to be a strong and intelligent youth. While on a hunting trip he shot a doe who happened to be pregnant. As he approched the dying animal it gave birth and both mother and fawn died.

This had a devestating effect on his tender heart. He withdrew into himself giving away all his possessions much to the dismay of his parents. One day a group of bairagi sadhus (holy men) came by his town and Lashman Das joined them and left home. Under the influence of a vaishnava hermit Janaki Prasad he was given a new name of Narayan Das alias Madho Das. He travelled south with Baba Ram Thamman and spend many years in Hindu monistries in centeral India. During these wondering years he was captivated by an old yogi Aughar Nath in Maharashtara in the Panchbati forest learning all manner of Trantric Mantras.

He finally settled down near a town called Nanded. As time went by he aquired disciples of his own and his attainments made him haughty and he began to show disrespect to visiting hermits and sadhus, his awe spread throughout the surrounding land and was regarded by locals with apprehention.

In September 1708 the all knowing Guru, wondered into the ashram of Madho Das. At the time the hermit was away bathing in the river, Guru Ji ordered his Sikhs to slaughter a buffalo grazing near by. Upon hearing this Madho Das returned to his ashram with great anger and fury. Upon setting eyes on Guru Sahib Ji, Madho Das faultered and went down to his knees. But still the anger of the killed animal welled within him. “My ashram has been desicrated by the blood of this buffalo” he said.

“The animal was killed in a corner of your compound, how does it desicrate the whole of your ashram?” enquired Guru Sahib Ji.
“This is my land, and blood has been spilt upon it” answered Madho.

“Rivers of blood are flowing all around you. Your fellow man is being subjected to untold attrocities, is this not also on your land ?” Guru Ji said. With this the realisation dawned upon Madho Das and he fell at Guru Sahib Ji’s feet. “O’Lord, I am your Bandha, command me as you will “ he said.

Madho Das was initiated into the Khalsa by taking the amrit of the double edged sword administered by Guru Sahib Ji. Thus Madho Das became a fully fledged Sikh and was given the name of Gurbakhsh Singh, but he became known as Bandha Singh Bahdadur, the brave.

Bandha was an inspired choice of leader for the impending confrontation with the Mughals.

Once converted to Sikhism, Bandha projected a sense of formidable power that witnessed the emergence of militant Khalsa assertiveness. When he left the south for the long journey to the Punjab, however, he only had twenty five Sikhs with him – the five, Binod Singh, Kahan Singh, Baaj Singh, Daya Singh and Ram Singh and twenty others.

His strength of course lay in Guru Gobind Singh Ji's blessing and the hukamnamas (directives) to the various Sikh sangats, directing them to rally around Bandhas banner. As symbols of authority Guru Ji had given him five arrows from his own quiver, a nishan Sahib (flag) and a nagara (war drum). Armed with these the handful of men left Nander to seek their destiny in the northern reaches of Hindustan at the end of 1708.

Cautiously making their way through Delhi after a journey of several months Bandha headed for the Punjab where is emissaries had already delivered Guru Sahibs hukamnamas to the Malwa, Doaba and Majha regions, as a result a steady stream of Sikhs had started to join him. After several small scale military actions Bandha headed towards Samana, a town of bitter memories for all Sikhs. It was the home of Sayyad-Jalal-ud-Din, the person who had beheaded Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji, and Shashal Beg and Bashal Beg the executioners of Sahibzada Johrawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Sumana was a heavily defended and fortified town with a resident garrison. The military commander was scornful of the rag-tag force that was descending upon them. On 26th November 1709 they were in for a surprise.

Bandhas lightening assault that morning was so swift that the attackers were in the town before the defenders had time to close the gates. A fierce battle ensued in the streets with the long oppressed peasantry joining forces with Bandha and wreaked vengeance. In quick succession Bandha next stormed Ghuram, Thaska and Mustafabad. Each Sikh victory added to Bandhas mystique and gave the populace confidence in its own power, a discovery made by Bandhas fearless feats.

When on his way back from Mustafabad, Bandha heard of the indecencies which Qaddam-ud-din, the ruler of Kapuri, inflicted on the regions Hindu population, he decided to punish him. Kapuri was destroyed and Qaddam-ud-din punished with it. The prosperous town of Sahaura, which had an equally infamous ruler, Osman Khan, was Bandhas next destination. Osman had tortured and killed the Muslim divine Pir Buddhu Shah because he, his four sons and five hundred of his men had aided Guru Gobind Singh Ji in the battle of Banghani. The Sikhs anger was further honed by reports of Osman Khans atrocities against the local Hindus. Ironically Sadhaura, the abode of sadhus, once a Buddhist holy centre was raised to the ground.

Sirhand, the principle town of the south-east Punjab was the goal. To Bandha as to all Sikhs, it represented the bestiality of its governor Wazir Khan, who had bricked up Guru Gobind Singh Jis youngest sons before putting them to death.It was clear to every Sikh that the time had come for Wazir Khan to get his just dues. Writes James Bowne of the India Tract, “ Of all the instances of cruelty exercised by the Moghals this is the most barbarous and outrageous. Defenceless women and children have usually escaped, even from religious fury. No wonder then that the vengeance of the Sikhs was so severe. "

Though the Sikhs were fewer in numbers and arms and the well equipped Mughal force with its muskets, heavy guns, mail armour, cavalrymen and war elephants was more superior, Bandhas force excelled in swordsmanship and hand to hand combat, backed by archers and spearmen. What fuelled them was the impeccable sense of purpose, which their foe lacked. Wazir Khans army is estimated to be in the region of 20,000, while no records exist of the Sikh force it is generally regarded to be much fewer in number. The two forces clashed on the plain of Chappar Chiri, ten miles from Sirhand, on 22nd May 1710.

Not unexpectedly the ferocity of the fighting outstripped all previous encounters between Sikh and Mughal forces. Wazir Khan and several of his commanders were killed and according to Khafi Khan, a chronicler of the time ‘not a man of the army of Islam escaped with more then his life and the clothes he stood in. Horsemen and footmen all fell under the sword of the infidels (Sikhs) who perused them as far as Sirhand.’ The defences of Sirhand were breached two days later. Although Sirhand paid a heavy price, it was spared total destruction after its Hindu population appealed to Bandha Singh. Its reprieve was short lived, as a little over 50 years later Jassa Singh Ahluwalia would be less forgiving of the towns past misdeeds.

Bundhas Singhs clothing and weapons   Shastras (weapons) of Bundha Singh
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