Battle of Bhangani
The Battle of Bhangani (Punjabi: ਭੰਗਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਯੁੱਧ) was fought between Guru Gobind Singh's army and the combined forces of many Hindu Rajas of the Sivalik Hills (pahari rajas), on 18 September 1686, at Bhangani near Paonta Sahib. It was the first battle fought by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, at the age of 19.
|Battle of Bhangani|
• Guru Gobind Singh's disciples (Sikhs),|
• Pir Budhu Shah's disciples,
• Daya Ram
Combined armies of Rajas:|
• Bhim Chand (Kahlur) of Bilaspur State,
• Fateh Shah of Garhwal,
• Kirpal of Katoch,
• Gopal of Guler,
• Hari Chand of Hindur,
• Kesari Chand of Jaswal,
|Commanders and leaders|
• Guru Gobind Singh,|
• Pir Buddu Shah
• Mahant Kirpal Das,
• Fateh Shah |
• Sangho Shah
• Hari Chand
Bichitra Natak, an autobiography generally attributed to Guru Gobind Singh, contains a detailed description of the battle.
By the 1680s, the Guru's influence and power had increased greatly. His devotees came from distant places and brought him valuable gifts. A devotee called Duni Chand visited Anandpur in 1681, and presented him a Shamiana (a royal canopy or tent) embroidered in gold and silver, and was studded with pearls. Ratan Rai, the son of Raja Ram Rai of Assam, visited Anandpur with his mother and several ministers, and presented several gifts to the Guru, including an elephant called Prasadi (or Parsadi).
In the mid-1680s, Guru Gobind Singh ordered the construction of a war drum (nagara) to enthuse his army. The job of constructing the drum was entrusted to the Guru's Dewan, Nand Chand, and the drum was named Ranjit Nagara. The use of such a war drum was limited to the chieftains, within their territory. Its use by the Guru was considered a hostile act by Raja Bhim Chand. On his Prime Minister's advice, the Raja arranged a meeting with the Guru, and visited his court in Anandpur. There, his eyes fell on the valuable gifts presented to the Guru by the devotees.
Some days later, Bhim Chand sent a message to Anandpur, asking the Guru to lend the Prasadi elephant to him. Bhim Chand wanted the elephant to make a display of his wealth to the guests at his son's proposed wedding. The Guru suspected that Bhim Chand wanted to gain permanent possession of the elephant, and declined the Raja's demand. He stated that the devotee who had presented the elephant didn't want it to be given away to anybody else. Bhim Chand is said to have sent his emissaries thrice to the Guru, the last one being Raja Kesari Chand of Jaswal. However, the Guru didn't accept his demand, and refused to part with the elephant.
The Raja was perturbed by the Guru's refusal to give away the elephant, his growing influence, and his interest in military exercises. An atmosphere of confrontation developed between the two on small issues.
In April 1685, Guru Gobind Singh shifted his residence to Paonta (now Poanta sahib) in Sirmur state, at the invitation of Raja Mat Prakash (a.k.a. Medni Prakash) of Sirmur. The reasons for the shift are not clear. The author of Bichitra Natak doesn't mention any reason for shifting his residence to Paonta. According to the Gazetteer of the Sirmur state, the Guru was compelled to quit Anadpur due to differences with Bhim Chand, and went to Toka. From Toka, he was brought to Nahan (the capital of Sirmur) by Mat Prakash. From Nahan, he proceeded to Paonta. According to Ajay S. Rawat, Mat Prakash invited the Guru to his kingdom in order to strengthen his position against Raja Fateh Shah of Garhwal. At the request of Raja Mat Prakash, the Guru constructed a fort at Paonta with help of his followers, in a short time. He continued to increase his army. Raja Fateh Shah also paid a visit to the Guru, and was received with honor in his court. The Guru established a peace treaty between the two Rajas.
The marriage of Bhim Chand's son was arranged with the daughter of Fateh Shah. Bhim Chand had to go from Bilaspur to Srinagar (the capital of Garhwal) for the marriage ceremony, and the shortest route passed through Paonta. However, the Guru had no faith in Bhim Chand, and he refused to let his heavily armed party pass through Paonta. After negotiations, the Guru permitted only the bridegroom and a small number of his companions to cross the ferry near Paonta. The rest of the marriage party, including Bhim Chand, had to follow a circuitous route to Srinagar. This increased Bhim Chand's hostility towards the Guru.
Fateh Shah had invited the Guru to the wedding celebrations. The Guru sent his representatives Bhai Nand Chand (or Namd Chand) and Bhai Daya Ram to the wedding celebrations. He also sent jewellery worth approximately a hundred thousand rupees as a gift for the bride. His representatives were accompanied by 500 horsemen to guard the gift. When Bhim Chand came to know about this gift from the Guru, he threatened to cancel the marriage if Fateh Shah accepted the gift. Fateh Shah, fearing for his daughter's future, refused to accept the gift, and sent back the Guru's contingent.
On their way back to Paonta, the Guru's horsemen were attacked by the Rajas' forces. They managed to defend themselves, and told the Guru about the incident. The Guru, anticipating an attack from the Rajas, made preparations for the war.
According to another theory, by the historian Harjinder Singh Dilgeer, Bhim Chand's son was not married to the daughter of Fateh Shah and there was no question of dispute with Fateh Shah on this ground. Instead, Fateh Shah had been instigated by Gurbakhsh (a masand of Raja Ram Rai of Assam) that the Guru intended to attack his Garhwal territory and occupy it. As a result, Fateh Shah decided to attack the Guru. The Guru got the news of attack before hand and reached Bhangani, from where people usually crossed the Yamuna river. The battle was fought here on 18 September 1688.
The Guru organized an army consisting of his disciples (Sikhs), and some Udasis including Mahant Kirpal Das. The Guru had enlisted 500 Pathans on the recommendation of Pir Budhu Shah (a fakir, who lived at Sadhaura near Paonta). According to oral folk tradition these 'Pathans' were under the supposed command of five chieftains: Kale Khan, Bhikan Khan, Najabat Khan (or Nijabat Khan), Hyat Khan (or Hayat Khan), and Umar Khan. Except the one hundred men under Kale Khan, all other Pathans deserted the Guru before the battle began. They were apprehensive of the scanty resources at the disposal of the Guru, and joined Bhim Chand, who promised them a share of the loot at Paonta. Most of the Udasis, except the chief Mahant Kirpal and a few others, also deserted the Guru. When the Guru informed the Pir about the defected Pathans, the Pir rushed to assist the Guru with his four sons, his brother, and around 700 of his followers.
According to Harjinder Dilgeer there was no Pathan in the Guru's army, and story of Pir Budhu Shah sending his sons is a later concoction. Pir Budhu Shah was at Sadhaura, about 60 km from Paonta; it was not possible for him to receive the news of betrayal by Pathan soldiers. Even if it is accepted, there is no explanation for how he could get the news the same day and dispatch his son from Sadhaura to Bhangani: it would mean that the battle continued for several days. Thus, he concludes that Pir Budhu Shah's story is a concoction; however, there is no doubt that Pir was an admirer of the Guru and for this 'crime' Usman Khan the chief of Sadhaura had punished (killed) the Pir and his two sons.
The battle of Bhangani lasted for a day; some historians argue that it lasted for nine hours. But it was fought with great fury. As the combined armies of the hill Rajas marched towards Paonta, Guru Gobind Singh also marched towards them. The opposing forces met on the banks of Yamuna river, at Bhangani, 6 miles (9.7 km) away from Paonta. The battle resulted in the death of several of the Guru's and the Pir's disciples, including the two sons of the Pir.
Description in Bichitra NatakEdit
The author of Bichitra Natak, believed to be Guru Gobind Singh, praises his own (Guru's) soldiers, as well as those of the enemy forces. According to him, the Guru's soldiers included the five sons of Bibi Viro (the daughter of Guru Har Gobind): Sango Shah, Jit Mall, Gulab Chand, Mahri Chand and Ganga Ram. Sango Shah fell down after killing Najbat Khan of the opposing army. The Guru praises the heroism of Daya Ram, and equates him to Dronacharya of Mahabharata. He also says that his maternal uncle Kirpal fought like a true Kshatriya and killed one Hayat Khan with his Kutka (mace).
The other soldiers mentioned by the author include Lal Chand, Sahib Chand, Maharu, Nand Chand or Namd Chand (who fought with his dagger after his sword broke). The enemies mentioned by him include Gopal (the king of Guleria), the Raja of Chandel, and the chiefs of Jaswal and Dadhwal.
The author praises the archery skills of Hari Chand. Hari Chand killed Jit Mall in a duel, but himself fainted. After coming to his senses, he fired arrows at the Guru, who survived and killed Hari Chand with an arrow.
The author said that he himself went into the battlefield when an arrow struck his body.
Guru Gobind Singh did not do well in the beginning but ultimately came out victorious, and won the battle. The author of Bichitra Natak also mentions that the battle resulted in the victory of the Guru's forces, and the enemy forces fled from the battlefield.
The Guru, though victorious, did not occupy the territory of defeated hill chiefs. Some historians such as H. Raturi, Anil Chandra Banerjee and A. S. Rawat speculate that the battle must have ended without any conclusive result, since the Guru's victory is not substantiated by any territorial annexations, and the Guru entered into an understanding with Bhim Chand soon after the battle. However, this was most likely because the Guru was not after any territorial gains, just as his grandfather, Guru Hargobind had done when winning his battles against the Mughals.
The author of Bichitra Natak states that after the battle, the Guru didn't remain at Paonta, and returned to Anandpur. Those who fought in the battle were rewarded, and those who didn't were turned out of the town.
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