423.The Man in Blue – Banda Singh Bahadur

This article is based on ‘the Sikh rebellion’ on page 256 to 258 of The Mughal Empire by John F Richards. Richards tells us that Guru supported Bahadur Shah in the war of succession after the death of Aurangzeb. Guru tried to get justice from the emperor against Wazir Khan of Sirhind for the killing of Guru’s two younger sons.

As he was not successful he sent Lachman Das, who after taking amrit became Banda Singh Bahadur, to Panjab. On his way Banda Singh heard the news of the killing of Guru by suspected hirelings of Wazir Khan.

Banda Singh raised an army and offered refuge to anyone ‘threatened by thieves, dacoits or highway robbers, troubled by Muslim bigots or in any way subjected to injustice or ill-treatment’. Banda Singh’s followers were mainly Jats and Dalits, attracted by his egalitarian message. They took amrit, adopted the name Singh and were prepared to fight for the new faith.

Richards then tells that Banda Singh stormed, levelled and massacred Samana, a prosperous Muslim-dominated Panjab town. ‘Half a dozen Panjab towns shared a similar fate before the Sikhs reached Sirhind where they aimed to revenge themselves on Wazir Khan.’

Banda Singh also conquered Sirhind, ‘massacred those inhabitants who did not hastily convert to Sikhism, looted the city and destroyed the buildings. After Sirhind, Banda Singh adopted the title of padshah, started a new calendar and issued coins bearing the names of Guru Nanak and Govind’.

Recently in various London Gurdwaré Fateh Day was celebrated, related to Banda Singh Bahadur. Posters regarding Fateh Day explicitly stated that we were celebrating the revenge on the population of Sirhind for the killing of Guru’s young sons.

I think that revenge is not part of the Sikh way of life. Bhai Ghanaya helped all wounded soldiers and Guru Gobind Singh supported him. Guru Gobind Singh was asked by Aurangzeb to come and visit him and Guru went on his way to see Aurangzeb in spite of his responsibility for the attacks on the Sikhs.

If Banda Singh went into Sirhind to make sure that Wazir Khan was punished for his crime that would be perfectly justified. If that is the case the above is based on anti Sikh propaganda in Mughal reports.

We should be more careful in how we describe Fateh Day. The young sons of Guru were not killed by all Muslims, all Mughals or all inhabitants of Sirhind. If on the other hand unbiased research shows that Banda Singh Bahadur massacred people we should abolish Fateh Day.

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