Saturday, July 17, 2010


Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia :

Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was born (1718-1783) at a village called Ahlu or Ahluwal near Lahore, established by his ancestor, Sadda singh, a devotee of Sixth Guru, Hargobind. Hence the name Ahluwalia stuck to him. His forefathers were kalals (wine merchants). Hence he is also called Jassa singh Kalal.

However such was the admiration he won of the whole Sikh community that Jassa singh kalal came to be known as 'Guru Ka Lal' (the beloved son of Guru). Son of Badar singh Jassa singh was hardly 5 yrs old when his father died (1723 A.D.). His mother entreated Mata Sundri, widow of Guru Gobind Singh ji, to take him into her care. Mata Sundri agreed to do so, and lavished much affection on him, instructing him carefully in the arts of war and peace. He studied Sikh scriptures under Bhai Mani singh. Later, Mata Sundri asked Nawab Kapur singh to take charge of the promising youth. Both he and his mother used to perform Hari-Kirtan before Nawab Kapur singh who much pleased at his supreme devotion to the faith and sense of duty and humility, appointed him as a storekeeper with his forces. As was natural, he participated in many combat as well where he displayed such qualities of leadership that Nawab Kapur singh appointed him his successor on the eve of his death in 1753. Elated at his successful helmsmanship, the Khalsa honored Jassa singh with the title of Sultan-ul-Qaum (king of the whole people), when they captured Lahore in 1761.

On Feb 5 1762, Sikhs were especially the target of Ahmad Shah Abdali Sixth invasion into India. News had reached him in Afghanistan of the defeat of his general, Nur-Ud-Din Bamezai, at the hands of Sikhs who were fast spreading themselves out over the Punjab and had declared their leader, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, king of Lahore. To rid his Indian dominion of them once for all, he set out from Kandahar. Marching with alacrity, he overtook the Sikhs as they were withdrawing into the Malwa after crossing the Sutlej.

The moving caravan comprised a substantial portion of the total Sikh population and contained, besides active fighters, a large body of old men, women and children who were being escorted to the safety of the interior of the country. Surprised by Ahmad Shah, the Sikhs threw a cordon round those who needed protection, and prepared for the battle. In this formationand continuing their march, they fought invaders and their Indian allies (Nawab of Malerkotla, Sarhind, etc. ) desperetely. Charat Singh, Hari Singh Bhangi and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia led their forces with skill and courage. Jassa Singh ahluwalia sustained sixty four wounds on his body and Charat Singh rode to exhaustion five of his horses one after another.

Ahmad Shah succeeded, in the end, in breaking through the ring and glutted his spite by carrying out a full scale butchery. His orders were for everyone in Indian dress to be killed at sight. The soldiers of Malerkotala and Sarhind were to wear green leaves of trees on their heads to distinguish themselves from the Sikhs. Near the village of Kup, in the vicinity of Malerkotla, about 20,000 Sikhs lay on that ghastly field at the end of a single day's action (February 5, 1762). This battle in Sikh history is known as Wadda Ghalughara.
Jassa singh fought valiantly and received 64 cuts, but he survived. Even such a disaster as had overtaken them at Kup caused no despondency among the Sikhs. When the survirors of of the Great carnage assembled inthe evening for their prayers. A Sikh got up and said "No harm done, Khalsa ji! The Panth has emerged purer from the trial; the alloy has been eliminated." Within four months of Ghalughara, Sikhs under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia inflicted and a severe defeat on the governor of Sarhind and were celebrating Diwali in Harimandir which the Shah had demolished, and were fighting pitched battle forcing him to withdraw from Amritsar under cover of darkness (October 17,1762).

Upto now, Sikhs forces were divided into 65 jathas Nawab Kapur singh reorganised them into Eleven bands, each of course with its own name, flag and leader. These bands or Jathas, which came to known later on as Misls (lit. equal, also an example) together were, however, given the name of Dal Khalsa (or the Khalsa force), under over all charge of Jassa singh Ahluwalia.

It is a miracle of Guru Gobind singh that everyone irrespective of Caste, region or station accepted the decision of their venerable old leader with a clean and good heart. Here is what Bhangu Ratan singh has to say 'Ape Raj, ape Mujdar, Bade bhujangi, dil ke sur. Ape pisen, ap pakwan, to bade sardar Kahawan. koi kare na kise sheereka, koi na sunawe nij dukj ji ka.' which means 'They were all brave of heart. They themselves ground their corn and cooked their own food. It is through such dedicated service that they became great Sardars. None felt jealous of another nor ever gave vent to his own privations or personal grief.

The fear of his Indian empire falling to the Sikhs continued to obsess the Ahmad Shah Abdali's mind and helet out another campaign against Sikhs towards the close of 1766. This was his eighth invasion into India. The Sikhs had recourse to their old game of hide and seek. They vacated Lahore, but faced squarely the Afghan general, Jahan Khan at Amritsar, forcing him to retreat, with six thousand Abdali's soldiers killed. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with an army of about twenty thousand Sikhs roamed in the neighbourhood of the Afghan camp plundering it to his heart's content. Never before Ahmad Shah Abdali had felt so helpless, his dream of capturing the whole of India was dying before his own eyes. In the words of a contemporary writer: "The Shah's influence is confined merely to those tracts which are covered by his army. The Zamindars appear in general so well affected towards the Sikhs that itis usual with the latter to repair by night to the villages where they find every refreshment. By the day they retire from them and again fall to harassing the Shah's troops. " Jassa Singh was also called "Bandi Chhor", (The delivered) for having rescued 2200 beautiful Hindu women made prisoner by Abdali for his harms.

More on Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia

Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia

Sardar Jassa Singh was born in 1718. Unfortunately, his father, Sardar Badar Singh, died when Jassa Singh was only four years old. He was taught by his mother to recite Gurbani and do kirtan. When his mother took him to Mata Sundari Ji at Delhi, she was impressed by his melodious singing of hymns and kept the boy with her. Later he was adopted by Nawab Kapoor Singh, the leader of the Sikh nation. Jassa Singh, thus, got into the stream of political leadership. This helped him develop his talents and duly become the next leader of the Sikh nation.

The singing of the Asa Ki Var in the mornings by Jassa Singh was appreciated by all in the Dal Khalsa. He was a handsome young man, always smiling and keeping himself busy in doing sewa (volunteer service). He became very popular with the Sikhs. He learned horseback riding and swordsmanship from expert teachers. Thus, this holy singer also became an excellent soldier. Having lived in Delhi, he used to tie his turban in the Mughal fashion. He often used words of the Delhi dialect which became a favorite topic of discussion among the Sikhs. It provided them with many light moments.

Under the leadership of Jassa Singh, the Dal Khalsa took over Lahore, the capital of Punjab, for the first time, in 1761. They were the masters of the city for a few months and minted their own coins in the name of Guru Nanak. Because of his services to the Khalsa and bringing them this success, Jassa Singh was honored with the title of Sultanul Kaum, the King of the Nation.

Reclaiming the honor of the Golden Temple

Sikhs were under great pressure because of government violence against them. They became enraged when they found that Massa Rangar, the official in charge of the Amritsar region, drank alcohol and smoked in the Golden Temple. Two Sikhs, Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh, came disguised as revenue collectors and cut off his head. It was a signal to the government that the Sikhs would never tolerate any disrespect to their sacred Harimandar Sahib.

The Governor of Lahore sent military squads to kill the Sikhs. When Jaspat Rai, brother of Lakhpat Rai, the Dewan (premier) of Lahore, faced the Sikhs in a battle, one of the Sikhs held the tail of his elephant and got on his back from behind. With a quick move, he chopped off his head, giving another blow to the government’s image.

Lakhpat Rai, after this incident, committed himself to destroying the Sikhs. In 1746, a new wave of violence was started against them with all of the resources available to the government. The army was sent to destroy the Sikhs. All of the village officials were ordered to cooperate in the expedition. About 15,000 Sikhs including Jassa Singh and other important leaders were camping in riverbeds in the Gurdaspur district (Kahnuwan tract). Local people were forcibly employed to search for the Sikhs to be killed by the army. An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Sikhs were thus murdered. Those Sikhs who were arrested alive were taken to Lahore, tortured and executed near the Horse Market. There now stands a Gurdwara called Shaheed Ganj. Even the Sikhs living in peace in the city were arrested without any reason. They were also butchered. This first massacre of 1746 is known as the Chhota Ghalughara (the small massacre) of the Sikhs.

In 1747, Shah Nawaz took over as Governor of Lahore. To please the Sikhs, Lakhpat was dismissed by the new Governor. Having been removed from office, Lakhpat received severe punishment and was killed by the Sikhs.

Army afraid of the Sikhs

The defeat of Abdali at the hands of the Sikhs sent shock waves to Kabul and Delhi. In 1764, the Sikhs punished another commander of the army. Jain Khan was away from Sirhind recovering revenues from different Nawabs, when Sikhs moved in to face him before he could get back into the fort. When encircled by the Sikhs, he tried to slip away leaving his men entangled with the Sikhs. But Jassa Singh had organized the attack very well. When Khan was leaving the battlefield to escape, the watchful Sikhs shot him dead. The regions around Sirhind were divided among the Sikh Misldars and monies recovered from the treasury were used to rebuild the Harimandar Sahib. Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib was built in Sirhind where the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh were murdered. Sikhs took over Lahore again in 1765.

In 1767, when Abdali came again, he sent messages to the Sikhs for their cooperation. He even offered them the governorship of Punjab but none of them accepted it. Instead, the Sikhs continued to harass him with repeated guerilla attacks. They took away his caravan of 300 camels loaded with fruits from Kabul. As soon as he crossed the river Satlej on his way to Delhi, the Sikhs were again in control of the areas between Satlej and Ravi. Jassa Singh had so well prepared his men to fight that Abdali did not dare return to Kabul through Amritsar and Lahore. He took a long circuitous route through Multan. After his departure to Kabul, Sikhs crossed the Satlej and brought Sirhind and other areas right up to Delhi, under their control.

The Emperor of Delhi, Shah Alam II, was staying away in Allahabad; he did not come to Delhi for fear of the Sikhs. Alam ordered his commander Zabita Khan to fight the Sikhs. Zabita, knowing that he could not face the Sikhs, made a truce with them instead. Later, Alam dismissed him from service. Zabita Khan came to the Sikhs’ camp and he was welcomed by them. He became a Sikh, and was given a new name, Dharam Singh.

The high character of the Sikhs and their bravery are documented by an eye-witness and translated below:

Sikhs are great experts in the use of the sword and the art of war. Like lions, they jump on the enemy, like foxes they run away and get out of our reach. Their bodies are rock hard and in physical strength, one Sikh is the equivalent of more than 50 men. If they flee in a battle, don’t assume that they have been defeated. That is just part of their tactics because they suddenly turn back and murder all those who pursue them. Come and see these lions in the battlefield to learn the art of war from them.

They do not kill a woman, a child or a coward running away from the fight. They do not rob any person nor do they take away the ornaments of a woman, be she a queen or a slave girl. They commit no adultery, rather they respect the women of even their enemies. They always shun thieves and adulterers and in generosity, they surpass Hatim.

These comments are from the pen of Qazi Nur Mohammed, who came to Punjab with Abdali. These words are very significant because the Qazi was present during many Sikhs battles and himself was an enemy of the Sikhs.

Peace in Amritsar

Abdali thought that having demolished their fort and desecrated their holy Sarovar, he had made Sikhs unable to face the Afghans. However, within months, the Sikhs, guided by Ahluwalia, were strong enough to make Afghans their prisoners, and made them clean up the Amrit Sarovar. Within a few years, the same Abdali feared the Sikhs so much that he did not dare follow his normal route through Punjab to return to Kabul. He knew that the Sikhs were ready to tell him that they owned the Punjab and not the Afghans.

Jathedar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, honored as Sultanul Kaum (King of the Nation) was a devout Sikh. He was not greedy and did not attempt to add more areas to his Misl. Instead, whenever any wealth or villages came into the hands of the Sikhs, he distributed them among the Jathedars of all the Misls. Having lead the Sikhs through very trying times, Jassa Singh passed his last years in Amritsar. With the resources available to him, he repaired all the buildings, improved the management of the Gurdwaras, and provided better civic facilities to the residents of Amritsar. He was a contented man, having given his life for the cause of the Khalsa Panth. He wanted every Sikh to take Amrit before joining the Dal Khalsa. It were his actions as a true Sikhs that kept the Khalsa united and helped them to become a power in the Punjab.

Jassa Singh died in 1783 and was cremated near Amritsar. There is a city block, Katra Ahluwalia, in Amritsar named after him. This block was assigned to his Misl in honor of his having stayed there and protected the holy city.

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