Dal Khalsa (Sikh Army)

Dal Khalsa was the name of the combined forces of 12 misls that operated in the 18th century (1735–1780) in the Punjab region.


Mughal rule of PunjabEdit

The religion of Sikhism began at the time of the conquest of Northern India by Babur. His grandson, Akbar, supported religious freedom and after visiting the langar of Guru Amar Das had a favorable impression of Sikhism. As a result of his visit he donated land to the langar and had a positive relationship with the Sikh gurus until his death in 1605.[1] His successor, Jahangir, saw the Sikhs as a political threat. He arrested Guru Arjan Dev because of Sikh support for Khusrau Mirza[2] and ordered him to be put to death by torture. Guru Arjan Dev's martyrdom led the sixth Guru, Guru Har Gobind, to declare Sikh sovereignty in the creation of the Akal Takht and to establish a fort to defend Amritsar.[3] Jahangir attempted to assert authority over the Sikh by jailing Guru Har Gobind at Gwalior and released him after some time with 52 other rajpoot (hindu) kings on Guru HarGobind's orders. Sikhism did not have any further issues with the Mughal Empire until the death of Jahangir in 1627. His successor, Shah Jahan "took offense" at Guru Har Gobind's sovereignty and after a series of assaults on Amritsar forced the Sikhs to retreat to the Sivalik Hills.[3] Guru Har Gobind's successor, Guru Har Rai maintained the guruship in the Sivalik Hills by defeating local attempts to seize Sikh land and taking a neutral role in the power struggle between Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh for control of the Timurid dynasty. The ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, moved the Sikh community to Anandpur and traveled extensively to visit and preach in Sikh communities in defiance of Aurangzeb, who attempted to install Ram Rai to the guruship. He aided Kashmiri Brahmins in avoiding conversion to Islam and was arrested and confronted by Aurangzeb. When offered a choice between conversion or death, he chose to die rather than compromise his principles and was executed.[4] Guru Gobind Singh, assumed the guruship in 1675 and to avoid battles with Sivalik Hill Rajas moved the guruship to Paunta. He built a large fort to protect the city and garrisoned an army to protect it. The growing power of the Sikh community alarmed Sivalik Hill Rajas who attempted to attack the city but the Guru's forces routed them at the Battle of Bhangani. He moved on to Anandpur and established the Khalsa, a collective army of baptized Sikhs, on March 30, 1699. The establishment of the Khalsa united the Sikh community against various Mughal-backed claimants to the guruship.[5] In 1701, a combined army composed of the Sivalik Hill Rajas and the Mughal army under Wazir Khan attacked Anandpur and, following a retreat by the Khalsa, were defeated by the Khalsa at the Battle of Muktsar. In 1707, Guru Gobind Singh accepted an invitation by Bahadur Shah I, Aurangzeb's successor to meet in southern India. When he arrived in Nanded in 1708, he was injured by agents of Wazir Khan, the governor of Sirhind. After this incident his wounds were stitched and he began to recover. A few days after, some Sikhs brought a very stiff bow to present to Guru Gobind Singh. As they were discussing whether anybody would ever be able to put a string on the bow, Guru Gobind Singh accepted the challenge. Though the bow was stringed, due to the force he applied on the bow the wounds which were still fresh started bleeding profusely. Guru Gobind Singh then declared that he would be leaving for heavenly abode and asked his Sikhs to prepare for the cremation.

Banda Singh BahadurEdit

"It is singular that these people not only behaved firmly during the execution, but they would dispute and wrangle with each other who should suffer first; and they made interest with the executioner to obtain the preference."
-Seir Mutakherin by Seid Gholam Hossein Khan

Banda Singh Bahadur was an ascetic who converted to Sikhism after meeting Guru Gobind Singh at Nanded. A short time before his death, Guru Gobind Singh ordered him to reconquer Punjab and gave him a letter that commanded all Sikhs to join him. After two years of gaining supporters, Banda Singh Bahadur initiated an agrarian uprising by breaking up the large estates of Zamindar families and distributing the land to the poor Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim peasants who farmed the land.[6] Banda Singh Bahadur started his rebellion with the defeat of Mughal armies at Samana and Sadhaura and the rebellion culminated in the defeat of Sirhind. During the rebellion, Banda Singh Bahadur made a point of destroying the cities in which Mughals had been cruel to Sikhs, including executing Wazir Khan in revenge for the deaths of Guru Gobind Singh's sons after the Sikh victory at Sirhind.[7] He ruled the territory between the Sutlej river and the Yamuna river, established a capital in the Himalayas at Lohgarh, and struck coinage with the faces of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh.[6] In 1716, his army was defeated by the Mughals after he attempted to defend his fort at Gurdas Nangal. He was captured along with 700 of his men and sent to Delhi where he was tortured and executed after refusing to convert to Islam.

Sivalik hillsEdit

The Ganges cutting through the Sivalik Hills

After 1716, the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah began a campaign of genocide against Sikhs through his Governor of Lahore, Abdus Samad Khan. His son and, later, successor, Zakariya Khan Bahadur led a standing army dedicated to eliminating Sikhs, executed Sikhs publicly, and offered monetary rewards for the heads of killed Sikhs.[8] The Sikhs "retaliated by killing government functionaries and plundering Mughal posts, arsenals, and treasuries"[9] but could not assemble an army.[10] The persecution of the Mughal Empire forced some Sikhs to abandon the outward signs of their faith, but "the more sincere had to seek a refuge among the recesses of the hills or in the woods to the south of the Sutlej"[11] The Sikhs went into hiding during this period. From 1718-1738, the Sikhs carried out a guerrilla war against the Mughal Empire in the area around the Sivalik Hills.[10] Historian Josepeh Cunningham writes of the period: "The Sikhs were scarcely again heard of in history for the period of a generation".[11]

Dal KhalsaEdit

In 1733, Zakariya Khan Bahadur attempted to negotiate a peace with the Sikhs by offering them a jagir, the title Nawab to their leader, and unimpeded access to the Harmandir Sahib. After discussion at a Sarbat Khalsa, Kapur Singh was elected leader of the Sikhs and took the title of Nawab. Nawab Kapur Singh combined the various Sikh militias into two groups; the Taruna Dal and the Buddha Dal, which would collectively be known as the Dal Khalsa. Sikh militias over 40 years of age would be part of the Buddha Dal and Sikh militas under 40 years were part of the Taruna Dal.[12] The Taruna Dal was further divided in five jathas, each with 1300 to 2000 men and a separate drum and banner.[13] The area of operations of each Dal, or army, was Hari ke Pattan, where the Sutlej river and Beas River meet; the Taruna Dal would control the area east of Hari ke Pattan while the Budha Dal would control the area west of it.[14] The purpose of the Budda Dal, the veteran group, was to protect Gurdwaras and train the Taruna Dal, while the Taruna Dal would act as combat troops. However, in 1735, the agreement between Zakariya Khan and Nawab Kapur Singh broke down and the Dal Khalsa retreated to the Sivalik Hills to regroup. Later the command of Dal Khalsa was taken by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia who was an able and powerful administrator.

Invasion of Nader ShahEdit

In 1738, Nader Shah of the Persian Afsharid dynasty invaded Muhammad Shah's Mughal Empire. Nadir Shah defeated the Mughal Empire in the Battle of Karnal and proceeded to sack Delhi. During the panic before and after the Battle of Karnal, important functionaries of the Mughal Empire fled Delhi but were intercepted by small jathas of the Dal Khalsa and relieved of their wealth.[11] Nadir Shah then gave Muhammad Shah back his title of Mughal Emperor but took away his royal treasury, including the Peacock Throne. When Nadir Shah began his retreat, the Sikhs who had been seeking refuge in the Sivalik Hills came down from the mountains and mercilessly plundered the treasure of the Persian Army. Afterwards the Dal Khalsa established a fort at Dallewal near the Ravi river and began levying taxes in the area around Lahore.[10] During this period, the Muslim historian Nur Mohammed, though full of contempt for Sikhs, was constrained to pay tribute to them of their character, in the following words:

"In no case they would slay a coward, nor would they put an obstacle in the way of a fugitive. They do not plunder the wealth and ornaments of a woman, be she a well to do lady or a maid servant. There is no adultery among these dogs, nor are they mischievous people given to thieving. Whether a woman is young or old, they call her 'buriya' and asked her to get out of the way. The word 'buriya' in Indian language means 'an old lady'. There is no thief at all among these dogs, nor is there any house breaker born among these miscreants. They do not make friends with adulterers and house breakers, though their behaviors on the whole is not commendable."

Battles fought by SikhsEdit

  1. Battle of Rohilla
  2. Battle of Kartarpur
  3. Battle of Amritsar (1634)
  4. Battle of Lahira
  5. Battle of Bhangani
  6. Battle of Nadaun
  7. Battle of Guler (1696)
  8. Battle of Basoli
  9. Battle of Anandpur (1700)
  10. Battle of Anandpur (1701)
  11. Battle of Nirmohgarh (1702)
  12. First Battle of Anandpur (1704)
  13. Second Battle of Anandpur
  14. First Battle of Chamkaur (1702).[15]
  15. Battle of Sarsa
  16. Second Battle of Chamkaur (1704).[16]
  17. Battle of Muktsar
  18. Battle of Sonepat
  19. Battle of Ambala
  20. Battle of Samana
  21. Battle of Chappar Chiri
  22. Battle of Sadhaura
  23. Battle of Rahon (1710)
  24. Battle of Lohgarh
  25. Battle of Jammu
  26. Kapuri expedition
  27. Battle of Jalalabad (1710)
  28. Siege of Gurdaspur or Battle of Gurdas Nangal
  29. Siege of Ram Rauni
  30. Battle of Amritsar (1757)
  31. Battle of Lahore (1759)
  32. Battle of Sialkot (1761)
  33. Battle of Gujranwala (1761)
  34. Sikh Occupation of Lahore[17]
  35. Vadda Ghalughara or Battle of Kup
  36. Battle of Harnaulgarh
  37. Skirmish of Amritsar (1762)
  38. Battle of Sialkot (1763)
  39. Battle of Sirhind (1764)
  40. Battle of Kunjpura (1772)
  41. Sikh raids on Delhi
  42. Rescue of Hindu Girls (1769)
  43. Battle of Rohtas (1779)
  44. Capture of Delhi and Red Fort (1783)
  45. Battle of Amritsar (1797)
  46. Battle of Amritsar (1798)
  47. Gurkha-Sikh War
  48. Battle of Attock
  49. Battle of Multan
  50. Battle of Shopian
  51. Battle of Peshawar (1834)
  52. Battle of Jamrud
  53. Sino-Sikh War
  54. Battle of Mudki
  55. Battle of Ferozeshah
  56. Battle of Baddowal[18][19]
  57. Battle of Aliwal
  58. Battle of Sobraon
  59. Battle of Chillianwala
  60. Battle of Ramnagar
  61. Siege of Multan
  62. Battle of Gujrat
  63. Battle of Saragarhi

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kalsi 2005, pp. 106–107
  2. ^ Markovits 2004, p. 98
  3. ^ a b Jestice 2004, pp. 345–346
  4. ^ Johar 1975, pp. 192–210
  5. ^ Jestice 2004, pp. 312–313
  6. ^ a b Singh 2008, pp. 25–26
  7. ^ Nesbitt 2005, p. 61
  8. ^ Singh, Patwant (2001). The Sikhs. Image. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-0-385-50206-1.
  9. ^ Singh, Patwant (2001). The Sikhs. Image. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-385-50206-1.
  10. ^ a b c Browne, James (1788). India tracts: containing a description of the Jungle Terry districts, their revenues, trade, and government: with a plan for the improvement of them. Also an history of the origin and progress of the Sicks. Logographic Press. p. 13.
  11. ^ a b c Cunningham, Joseph Davey (1918). A history of the Sikhs, from the origin of the nation to the battles of the Sutlej. Oxford University Press. p. 89. history of the sikhs cunningham.
  12. ^ Singha, H. S. (2005). Sikh Studies, Book 6. Hemkunt Press. p. 37. ISBN 8170102588.
  13. ^ Narang, K. S.; Gupta, H. R. (1969). History of Punjab: 1500 - 1558. p. 216. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  14. ^ Singha, H. S (2000). The encyclopedia of Sikhism (over 1000 entries). Hemkunt Press. pp. 39–. ISBN 978-81-7010-301-1. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  15. ^ Surjit Singh Gandhi (2007). History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1606-1708 C.E. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 822. ISBN 9788126908585.
  16. ^ Surjit Singh Gandhi (2007). History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1606-1708 C.E. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 822. ISBN 9788126908585.
  17. ^ Mehta, J. L. (2005). Advanced study in the history of modern India 1707–1813. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. p. 303. ISBN 978-1-932705-54-6. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  18. ^ Jacques, Tony (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges. Greenwood Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-313-33536-5.
  19. ^ Jacques, p. 93