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Jangnama, An Enemies Correspondance

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Common knowledge I know, but am posting it here as it's relevant and inspirational.


"Jangnama" is an eye-witness account of Ahmed Shah Durrani's invasion of 1764of which our knowledge is extremely poor otherwise. The eye-witness was Nur Muhanmmed, a domicile of Ganjuba in Baluchistan who held the post of Qazi, which he inherited from his father Abd - ullah Hilwar of Ganjuba. He had some pretentions to being a man of learning, a scholar of Persian and a learned poet. His fame as a man of letters travelled to the city of Kalat, and the ruler of that place, Mir Abdullah Khan asked him to compile a book of his poetry. The sugges- tion appealed to him and he decided to compose an epic to extol the achievements of Abdull-ah Khan.The decision, however, had to be abandoned, perhaps because of the death of Khan.

In 1761, he went to Kalat; understandably to get some favours now from Nasir Khan, who had succeeded Abdullah Khan and was seriously thinking of leading a crusade against the Sikhs whose power was increasing, thereby causing anxiety to Ahmed Shah Durrani and the Balu-chis . Nur Muhammed now offered to accompany Nasir Khan on his contemplated expedition provided the Khan promised him the post of Qazi in Shikarpore or the Deras. Durrani on his return from Punjab bestowed these territories upon him as a reward for his services. And the Qazi, on his part, undertook to write an account of the Khan's exploits on his holy mission. Nasir Khan accepted his offer and he accompanied the expeditionary force which joined the forces of Ahmed Shah Durrani in the winter of 1764. He was thus an eye-witness to all engage-ments and his narration of events is based on his personal observations.

On his return to Ganjuba on the conclusion of the expedition, Nur Muhammed completed the Jang Namah towards the close of Al-Hijari corresponding to about June 1765.The work consists of 55 statements called "Bian" in Persian - each dealing with some event, personality, racial group, tactics of war, or the behaviour of the Sikhs.The author has a strong prejudice against the Sikhs whom he remembers in no better words than dogs, dog of hell, pig eaters, accursed infidels, dirty idolators, fire worshippers, etc., yet his account of the character of the Sikhs of the eighteenth century is simply invaluable to the students of history.

The author is lavish in praise of his mentor and the crusades - both Baluchis and Pathans, sometimes depriving the historical narrative of its objectivity. Further, he reserves a strong hatred for the Sikhs. All these things minimize the historical value of the work. Yet, inspite of this , it is a very valuable and correct corroboration in respect of their struggle against the Afghani invaders, the desecration by the Durranis of their holy tank and temple, the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) at Amritsar and the martyrdom of Baba Gurbakhsh Singh Shaheed with his band of 30 Sikhs who valiantly challenged an army of 30,000 Afghanis and Baluchis and sacrificed their lives at the altar of their faith.

It is from the Jang Namah alone that we learn that the Sikhs under the Bhangis had crossed the Indus and had extended their conquest as far as Multan and Deras by the middle of 1764 in a few months after the conquest of Sirhind. Moreover, Jang Namah is the only detailed account, known to us, of the seventh invasion of Punjab by Ahmed Shah Durrani.So far as the Sikhs are concerned Jang Namah is an invaluable source of information. It visualises Sikhism and Sikh society as a separate entity, different from Hinduism.The conviction of Nur Muham-med was fully shared by his mentors, and perhaps, this was the reason that Ahmed Shah Abdali's anger was directed against Darbar Sahib which was the chief source of inspiration to the Sikhs.

The Sikhs offered resistance to Ahmed Shah Abdali in the manner that evoked praise even in the hearts of their detractors. Nur Muhammed inspite of his sympathy for his comrades-in-faith and hatred for the Sikhs could not help describing their excellent conduct, their experience in battlefield, their liberality and their valour, intrepedity, agility and grand physical appearance. This he did most probably to impress upon the soldiers of the invading armies that Sikhs were strong enough to withstand their onslaught because in moral conduct they were excellent and none surpassed them.In his account, he dwells on the qualities of the Sikhs about which every Sikh should feel proud. We present a liberal translation of Qazi Nur Muhammed's narration which elucidates their (Sikhs) high conduct, their mode of fighting, their faith and courage, etc:

"Do not call the dogs (the Sikhs) dogs, because they are lions (and) are courageous like lions in the battlefield. How can a hero, who roars like a lion be called a dog? (Moreover) like lions they spread terror in the field of battle. If you wish to learn the art of war, come face to face with them in the battlefield. They will demonstrate it (art of war) to you in such a way that one and all will shower praise on them.

If you wish to learn the science of war, O swordsman, learn from them. They advance at the enemy boldly and come back safely after action. Understand, Singh is their title, a form of address for them. It is not justice to call them dogs; if you do not know Hindustani language, then understand that the word 'Singh' means a lion."Truly, they are lion in battle, and at times of peace, they surpass "Hatim" (in generosity ). When they take the Indian sword in their hands they traverse the country from Hind to Sind. None can stand against them in battle, howsoever strong he may be. When they handle the spear, they shatter the ranks of the enemy. When they raise the heads of their spears towa-rds the sky, they would pierce even through the Caucasus (in the process). When the adjust the strings of the bows, place in them the enemy killing arrows (and) pull the strings to their ears, the body of the enemy begins to shiver with fear. When their battle axes fall upon the armour of their opponents, their armour becomes their coffin.

"The body of every one of them is like a piece of rock and in physical grandeur everyone of them is more than fifty men. It is said that Behram Gore killed wild asses and lions. But if he were to come face to face with them even he would bow before them (Singhs). Besides usual arms, they take their guns in hand (and) come into the field of action jumping (and) roaring like lions and raise slogans. They tear asunder the chests of many and shed blood of several (of their enemy) in the dust. You say that musket is a weapon of ancient times, it appears to be a creation of these dogs rather than Socrates. Who else than these (dogs) can be adept in the use of muskets. They do not bother (even if) there are innumerable muskets. To the right and the left, in front and towards the back, they go on operating hundreds of muskets angrily and regularly."

If you do not believe in what I say, you may enquire of the brave swordsmen who would tell you more than myself and would praise them for their fighting. This bears witness to (my statement) that they faced thirty thousand heroes in the battlefield. If their armies take to flight, it is a war tactics of theirs. They resort to this deception in order to make the angry army grow bold and run in their pursuit. When they find them separated from the main body and away from help and reinforcement, they at once turn back and fight more ferociously (literal translation - they set fire even to water).

"Did you not see that while fighting the Pathans, they took to flight which was deceptive. A world famous wrestler wielding high esteem and respect alight-ed from his horse and showed his great style as if he were Tuhmatan ( a great warrior of Iran). O valiant fighter, do justice to their (act of ) war. One of their armies invaded Multan and put the city to plunder and devastation and killed many of its inhabitants and carried away an immense booty. I am not sufficiently strong in mind to express what the dogs did there. But as God willed it, each of us has to submit to His Will."

Besides their fighting, listen to one more thing in which they excell all other warriors. They never kill a coward who is running away from the battlefield. They do not rob a woman of her wealth or ornaments whether she is rich or a servant ("Kaneez"). There is no adultry among these dogs, nor are they mischieveous people. A woman, whether young or old, they call a "Burhi". The word Burhi, means in Indian language, an old lady. There is no thief amongst these dogs, nor is there amongst them any mean people. They do not keep company with adulters and house thiefs though all their acts may not be commendable."

If you are not acquainted with their religion, I tell you that the Sikhs are the disciples of the Guru - that glorious Guru lived at Chak (Amritsar). The ways and manners of these people were laid down by Nanak who showed these Sikhs a separate path. He was succeeded by Guru Gobind Singh from whom they received the title of Singh. They are not part of the Hindus, who have a separate religion of their own. "Now that you have familiarised yourself with the behaviour of the Sikhs, you may also know something about their country. They have divided the Punjab amongst themselves and have bestowed it upon every young and old."

Professor Surjit Singh Gandhi

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