Banda Singh Bahadur

Banda Singh Bahadur (Popularly Known as Veer Banda Bairagi) (born Lachman Dev)[2][1][3] (27 October 1670 – 9 June 1716, Delhi), was a Sikh warrior and a commander of Khalsa army. At age 15 he left home to become a Hindu ascetic, and was given the name ‘'Madho Das Bairagi'’. He established a monastery at Nānded, on the bank of the river Godāvarī, where in September 1708 he was visited by, and became a disciple of, Guru Gobind Singh, who came to Nanded to collect forces and live last years of his life, he gave Lachman Dev the new name of Banda Bahadur, after the Baptism Ceremony. He was given five arrows by the Guru as a blessing for the battles ahead. He came to Khanda in Sonipat and assembled a fighting force and led the struggle against the Mughal Empire. His first major action was the sacking of the Mughal provincial capital, Samana, in November 1709.[1] After establishing his authority and Khalsa rule in Punjab,[4] Banda Singh Bahadur abolished the zamindari system, and granted property rights to the tillers of the land. Banda Singh was captured by the Mughals and tortured to death in 1715–1716.

Banda Singh Bahadur
Banda Bahadur the Sikh Warrior ,.JPG
Statue of Baba Banda Bahadur at Chappar Chiri
Birth nameLachman Dev Bhardwaj
Other name(s)Madho Das Bairagi, Veer Banda Bairagi
Born27 October 1670 (1670-10-27)
Rajauri, Poonch, present-day Jammu and Kashmir, India[1]
Died9 June 1716 (1716-06-10) (aged 45)
Delhi, Mughal Empire
Years of service1708-1716
Spouse(s)Susheel Kaur
ChildrenAjay Singh
Religious career
TeacherGuru Gobind Singh

Early life

Banda Bahadur was born in a Hindu family to farmer Ram Dev, at Rajouri (now in Jammu and Kashmir). Sources variously describe his father as a Rajput of Bhardwaj gotra[5][6] or a Dogra Rajput.[7][8] Hakim Rai's Ahwāl-i-Lachhmaṇ Dās urf Bandā Sāhib ("Ballad of Banda Bahadur") claims that his family belonged to the Sodhi sub-caste of the Khatris.[1][9] However, this claim appears to have been an attempt to portray him as Guru Gobind's successor, since the preceding Sikh Gurus were Sodhi's.[6]

He is also called Banda Bairagi as he was originally a follower of Vaishnavite sampradaya who are called Bairagi or Vairagi.[10]

Early conquests

After a meeting with Guru Gobind Singh, he marched towards Khanda and fight the Mughals with the help of the Sikh army in Battle of Sonipat.[11][12][13]

In 1709 he defeated Mughals in the Battle of Samana and captured the Mughal city of Samana,.[14][15] Samana minted coins. With this treasury the Sikhs became financially stable. The Sikhs soon took over Mustafabad (now Saraswati Nagar)[1] and Sadhora (near Jagadhri).[16] The Sikhs then captured the Cis-Sutlej areas of Punjab, including Malerkotla and Nahan.[citation needed]

On 12 May 1710 in the Battle of Chappar Chiri the Sikhs killed Wazir Khan, the Governor of Sirhind and Dewan Suchanand, who were responsible for the martyrdom of the two youngest sons of Guru Gobind Singh. Two days later the Sikhs captured Sirhind. Banda Singh was now in control of territory from the Sutlej to the Yamuna and ordered that ownership of the land be given to the farmers, to let them live in dignity and self-respect.[17]

Military Invasions

Banda Singh Bahadur developed the village of Mukhlisgarh and made it his capital. He then renamed it to Lohgarh (fortress of steel) where he issued his own mint.[18] The coin described Lohgarh: "Struck in the City of Peace, illustrating the beauty of civic life, and the ornament of the blessed throne".[citation needed]

He briefly established a state in Punjab for half a year. Banda Singh sent Sikhs to the Uttar Pradesh and Sikhs took over Saharanpur, Jalalabad, Muzaffarnagar and other nearby areas.


Banda Singh Bahadur is known to have halted the Zamindari and Taluqdari system in the time he was active and gave the farmers proprietorship of their own land.[19] It seems that all classes of government officers were addicted to extortion and corruption and the whole system of regulatory and order was subverted.[20]

Local tradition recalls that the people from the neighborhood of Sadaura came to Banda Singh complaining of the iniquities practices by their landlords. Banda Singh ordered Baj Singh to open fire on them. The people were astonished at the strange reply to their representation and asked him what he meant. He told them that they deserved no better treatment when being thousands in number they still allowed themselves to be cowed down by a handful of Zamindars. He defeated the Sayyids and Shaikhs in the Battle of Sadhaura.[21]

Persecution from the Mughals

The rule of the Sikhs over the entire Punjab east of Lahore obstructed the communication between Delhi and Lahore, the capital of Punjab, and this worried Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah He gave up his plan to subdue rebels in Rajasthan and marched towards Punjab.[22]

The entire Imperial force was organized to defeat and kill Banda Singh Bahadur.[23] All the generals were directed to join the Emperor's army. To ensure that there were no Sikh agents in the army camps, an order was issued on 29 August 1710 to all Hindus to shave off their beards.[24]

Banda Singh was in Uttar Pradesh when the Moghal army under the orders of Munim Khan[25] marched to Sirhind and before the return of Banda Singh, they had already taken Sirhind and the areas around it. The Sikhs therefore moved to Lohgarh for their final battle. The Sikhs defeated the army but reinforcements were called and they laid siege on the fort with 60,000 troops.[26][27] Gulab Singh dressed himself in the garments of Banda Singh and seated himself in his place.[28]

Banda Singh left the fort at night and went to a secret place in the hills and Chamba forests. The failure of the army to kill or catch Banda Singh shocked Emperor, Bahadur Shah and on 10 December 1710 he ordered that wherever a Sikh was found, he should be murdered.[29][30]

Banda Singh Bahadur wrote Hukamnamas to the Sikhs to reorganize and join him at once.[31] In 1712, the Sikhs gathered near Kiratpur Sahib and defeated Raja Ajmer Chand,[32] who was responsible for organizing all the Hill Rajas against Guru Gobind Singh and instigating battles with him. After Bhim Chand's dead the other Hill Rajas accepted their subordinate status and paid revenues to Banda Singh. While Bahadur Shah's four sons were killing themselves for the throne of the Mughal Emperor,[33] Banda Singh Bahadur recaptured Sadhaura and Lohgarh. Farrukh Siyar, the next Mughal Emperor, appointed Abdus Samad Khan as the governor of Lahore and Zakaria Khan, Abdus Samad Khan's son, the Faujdar of Jammu.[34]

In 1713 the Sikhs left Lohgarh and Sadhaura and went to the remote hills of Jammu and where they built Dera Baba Banda Singh.[35] During this time Sikhs were being persecuted especially by Mughals in the Gurdaspur region.[36]

Banda Singh came out and captured Kalanaur and Batala[37] which rebuked Farrukh Siyar to issue Mughal and Hindu officials and chiefs to proceed with their troops to Lahore to reinforce his army.[38]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indian Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at the commemorative event to mark the 300th anniversary of the martyrdom of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.

Siege in Gurdas Nangal

In March 1715, the army under the rule of Abd al-Samad Khan,[39] the Mughal governor of Lahore, drove Banda Bahadur and the Sikh forces into the village of Gurdas Nangal, Gurdaspur, Punjab and laid siege to the village.[40] The Sikhs defended the small fort for eight months under conditions of great hardship,[41] but on 7 December 1715 the Mughals broke into the starving garrison and captured Banda Singh and his companions.[1][42]


Banda Singh Bahadur was put into an iron cage and the remaining Sikhs were chained.[43] The Sikhs were brought to Delhi in a procession with the 780 Sikh prisoners, 2,000 Sikh heads hung on spears, and 700 cartloads of heads of slaughtered Sikhs used to terrorise the population.[44][45] They were put in the Delhi fort and pressured to give up their faith and become Muslims.[46]

The prisoners remained unmoved. On their firm refusal these non-converters were ordered to be executed. Every day 100 Sikh soldiers were brought out of the fort and murdered in public.[47] This continued for approximately seven days. [48] He was told to kill his four-year-old son, Ajai Singh, which he refused to do.[49] So, Ajai Singh was murdered, his heart was cut out, and thrusted into Banda Bahdur's mouth. However, his resolution did not break under torture, and so was he was martyred. After three months of confinement,[50] on 9 June 1716, Banda Singh's eyes were gouged out, his limbs were severed, his skin removed, and then he was killed. [1][51]

C.R.Wilson, a Bengal civilian, has given in his Early Annals of the English in Bengal the following description of the entry of the Sikh captives into Delhi:

Malice did its utmost to cover the vanquished with ridicule and shame. First came the heads of the executed Sikhs, stuffed with straw, and stuck on Bamboo's, their long hair streaming in the wind like a veil, and along with them to show that every living thing in Gurdaspur had perished, a dead cat on a pole. Banda himself, dressed out of mockery in a turban of a red cloth, embroidered with gold, and a heavy robe of brocade flowered with pomegranates, sat in an iron cage, placed on the back of an elephant. Behind him stood a mail-clad officer with a drawn sword.

After him came the other 740 prisoners seated two and two upon camels without saddles. Each wore a high foolscap of sheepskin and had one hand pinned to his neck, between two pieces of wood. At the end of the procession rode the three great nobles, Muhammad Amin Khan, sent by emperor to bring in prisoners, Qamr-ud-Din, his son, and Zakariya Khan, his son-in-law. The road to the palace, for several miles was lined with troops and filled with exultant crowds, who mocked at the teacher (Guru) and laughed at the grotesque appearance of his followers. They wagged their heads and pointed the finger of scorn at the poor wretched a they passed. "HU! HU! infidel dog worshippers your day has come.

Truly, retribution follows on transgression, as wheat springs from wheat, and barley from barley!! " Yet the triumph could not have seemed complete. Not all the insults that their enemies had invented could rob the teacher and his followers of his dignity. Without any sign of dejection or shame, they rode on, calm, cheerful, even anxious to die the death of martyrs. Life was promised to any who would renounce their faith, but they would not prove false to their Guru, and at the place of suffering their constancy was wonderful to look at. 'Me deliverer, kill me first,' was the prayer which constantly rang in the ears of the executioner. Once there was a young man, an only Son, whose widowed mother had made many applications to the Mughal officers, declaring that her son was a Sikh prisoner and no follower of the Guru. A release was granted and she hastened to the prison house to claim her son. But the boy turned from her to meet his doom crying , 'I know not this woman. What does she want with me? I am a true and loyal follower of the Guru.' For a whole week the sword of the executioner did its butcher work. Every day a hundred brave men perished and at night the headless bodies were loaded into carts; taken out of the city and hung upon trees. It was not until June 9 (Sunday, June 9 ,1716 A.D ) that Banda himself was led out to execution, all efforts failed to buy him off. They dressed him, as on the day of his entry, set him again on an elephant, and took him away to the old city, where the red Qutb Minar lifts its proud head of white marble over the crumbling walls of Hindu fortress. Here they made him paraded around the tomb of late emperor Bahadur Shah and put him to a barbarous death. First they had him dismount, placed his child in his arms and bade him kill it. Then they ripped upon the child before the father's eyes thrust its quivering flesh into his mouth and hacked him to pieces limb by limb.

The ambassadors of the East India company, John Surman and Edward Stephenson, who were in Delhi then and had witnessed some of these massacres, wrote to the governor of Fort William:

"It is not a little remarkable with what patience Sikhs undergo their fate, and to the last it has not been found that one apostatized from his new formed religion.

On June 9th , came the turn of Banda Singh. Harshest torments had been reserved for him. His eyes were pulled out and his hands and feet chopped off. His flesh was torn with red hot pincers. The end came, mercifully for him with the executioner's axe falling on his neck.

Battles fought by Banda Singh

Banda Bairagi Memorial in Khanda, Sonipat.
  1. Battle of Sonipat
  2. Battle of Samana
  3. Battle of Chappar Chiri[52]
  4. Battle of Sadhaura
  5. Battle of Lohgarh
  6. Battle of Jammu
  7. Battle of Rahon, (1710)
  8. Battle of Jalalabad (1710)
  9. Battle of Gurdas Nangal or Siege of Gurdaspur
  10. Battle of Sirhind

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur War Memorial

A war memorial was built where Battle of Chappar Chiri was fought, to glorify heroic Sikh soldiers. The 328 feet tall Fateh Burj was dedicated to Banda Singh Bahadur who led the army and defeated the Mughal forces. The Fateh Burj is taller than Qutab Minar and is an octagonal structure. There is a dome at the top of the tower with Khanda made of stainless steel.[53]

In popular culture

  • Sarbans Dani Guru Gobind Singh, a 1998 Indian Punjabi-language drama film directed by Ram Maheshwari. The film follows the Guru and Banda Singh Bahadur's struggle against the Mughal Empire.[54]
  • Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur, a 2016 Indian computer-animated film by Harry Baweja. A sequel to Chaar Sahibzaade, it follows Banda Singh Bahadur's fight against the Mughals under the guidance of Guru Gobind Singh.
  • Guru Da Banda, a 2018 Indian animated historical drama film by Jassi Chana.

See also


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  2. ^ Rajmohan Gandhi (1999), Revenge and Reconciliation, pp. 117–18, ISBN 9780140290455
  3. ^ "Banda Singh Bahadur". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  4. ^ Sagoo, Harbans (2001). Banda Singh Bahadur and Sikh Sovereignty. Deep & Deep Publications.
  5. ^ Harbans Kaur Sagoo (2001). Banda Singh Bahadur and Sikh sovereignty. Deep & Deep. p. 112. His father, Ram Dev, was an ordinary ploughman, Rajput of the Bharadwaj clan
  6. ^ a b Rai Jasbir Singh (1997). "Historical analysis of the ballad of Banda Bahadur". Journal of Sikh Studies. Guru Nanak Dev University. 21 (2): 33. The poet wants to assert that Banda was the religious descendant of Guru Gobind Singh and the 11th guru of the Sikhs. For this purpose, he acclaimed that Banda was a Sodhi Khatri. Actually, Banda was Bhardwaj Rajput. The poet knows that only the Sodhi Khatri could be the guru of the Sikhs. He seems, to be aware of the Sikh tradition that the guruship would remain within the limit of the Sodhi's.
  7. ^ Vidya Dhar Mahajan (1965). Muslim Rule in India. S. Chand. p. 231. Banda Bahadur was a Dogra Rajput
  8. ^ H. S. Singha (2005). Sikh Studies. Hemkunt Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-81-7010-258-8. Banda Singh Bahadur was born in 1670 AD at Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir of Dogra Rajput parents.
  9. ^ Ganda Singh (1975). "Banda Singh Bahadur, His Achievements and the Place of His Execution". The Panjab Past and Present. Department of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University. p. 441. According to Hakim Rai's Ahwal Lachhman Das urf Banda Sahib Chela Guru Singh Sahib, he originally belonged to the Sodhi clan of the Khatris, while another account records him as a Panjabi Khatri (Kapur or Khana) of the Sialkot District.
  10. ^ David N. Lorenzen, 2006, Who Invented Hinduism: Essays on Religion in History, Yoda Press, p.56.
  11. ^ The Sikh Review. Sikh Cultural Centre. 2008.
  12. ^ Sagoo, Harbans Kaur (2001). Banda Singh Bahadur and Sikh Sovereignty. Deep & Deep Publications. ISBN 9788176293006.
  13. ^ Haryana, India Director of Census Operations (1994). Census of India, 1991: Haryana. Govt. of Haryana.
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  21. ^ Singh, Teja (1999). A Short History of the Sikhs: 1469–1765. Patiala: Publication Bureau, Punjabi University. p. 85. ISBN 9788173800078.
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  48. ^ Singh, Teja (1999). A Short History of the Sikhs: 1469–1765. Patiala: Publication Bureau, Punjabi University. p. 97. ISBN 9788173800078.
  49. ^ Social Studies history and civics, class 10. PSEB. p. 72.
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  51. ^ Singh, Kulwant (2006). Sri Gur Panth Prakash: Episodes 1 to 81. Institute of Sikh Studies. p. 415. ISBN 9788185815282.
  52. ^ William Irvine (1904). Later Mughals. Atlantic Publishers & Distri.
  53. ^ "Baba Banda Singh Bahadur War Memorial, Fateh Burj in Ajitgarh". 30 November 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  54. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (March 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. OUP Oxford. p. 478. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
  55. ^ William Irvine (1904). Later Mughals. Atlantic Publishers & Distri.