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A rare military genius and a good ruler

Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon

Tribune

Banda Singh Bahadur and his Times By Raj Pal Singh. Harman Publishing House, New Delhi. Pages 121. Rs 220.

SIKHISM arose in the 16th century as a new revolutionary ideology which revolted against the religious hypocrisy of the priest and the political oppression of the contemporary rulers. The significance of the Guru?s message lies in emphasising the role of religion as an instrument of social and political liberation.

Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa whereby he gave to his followers a dynamic programme of action. He kindled that spark in their hearts which impelled them to break the shackles of socio-political slavery. They were filled with a lofty longing for freedom and ascendancy. The Guru?s call was for the dilverance of his followers from religious and political bondage, for justice and human rights. The rise of the Khalsa carried a new message of hope. People looked eagerly to the rise of a messiah who would deliver them from the socio-political persecution of the contemporary rulers and tyranny and oppression of the invaders. The emergence of Banda Bahadur on the scene was not a freak of history and must be viewed in its true perspective.

The book under review by Raj Pal Singh gives a biographical account of Banda Singh Bahadur, his historic mission and his glorious achievements. The author begins the study by tracing the development of Sikhism under the ten Gurus and the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh. Banda anascetic in the beginning was later nurtured in the Sikh ideology and cast in the mould of a soldier. He was deputed by the tenth Guru to fight against the oppressive Mughals and set his countrymen free from slavery. His mission was to establish the Khalsa raj.

Banda Singh was a brilliant commander who released a new dynamic force among his soldiers and taught them how to fight and conquer. Scavengers, barbers, carpenters and the lowest of the low in Indian estimation came under Banda?s spell and joined his army.

In his effort to establish Sikh sovereignty, Banda Singh performed prodigies of valour. The story of the success of his military adventures became the focus of attention all over the country. His capture of Sirhind was a landmark in his career. Thereafter he soon occupied the major chunk of territory between the Satluj and the Yamuna rivers and established his headquarters at Lohgarh.

With his decisive victories, Banda Singh was able to shake the foundations of the Mughal empire. He broke the myth of invincibility of the Mughals. The land between Lahore and Panipat lay practically at Banda Singh feet.

The author gives a detailed analysis of the nature and functioning of the state founded by Banda Singh Bahadur. Banda Singh replaced the Mughal administration by establishing his own police posts and revenue officials. He earned the goodwill of the people by abolishing the zamindari system. He conferred ownership rights on petty cultivators. Although he hardly got any respite in his military career, he paid the minutest attention to ameliorate the lot of the common people in his realm.

He espoused the cause of the weak and the down-trodden and became a champion of the oppressed. He earned the gratitude of the peasants by releasing them from feudal vaxations. They also sympathised with him and quite a big segment of them came forward to join the Khalsa. He conveyed to the people at large that a welfare state of their dreams had been established and that unjust officials had been replaced by the just who would respect the aspirations of the oppressed and the wronged.

The author does not agree with the view held by some people that Banda was guilty of violating the injunctions of the tenth Guru. Banda Singh took special care to see that he carried out his promise to the Guru in letter and spirit.

The author gives evidence to prove that Banda Singh never acted contrary to the wishes of the Gurus. Banda Singh gave strict instructions that the conduct of the Sikhs in the liberated areas was to be in strict conformity with the principles laid down by Guru Gobind Singh at the time of their initiation into the order of the Khalsa.

The view held by some writers that Banda Singh tried to assume personal power to the neglect of the Khalsa is also erroneous.It is well-known that Banda Singh struck coins in the name of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. Banda?singh official seal also depicted similar respect and attributed the victory of degh (kettle for services) and tegh (strength of the sword-arm) to the blessings of the Gurus. Credit for his victories and dazzling successes was given to the Gurus and the Khalsa.

It was a clear attempt at self-effacement and avoidance of any personal elevation even at the peak of his glory. Even in the midst of power and splendour, Banda Singh never liked to be the overlord of the Khalsa. There was no question of his even dreaming of establishing a separate sect or pretending to be Guru himself. His notable humility and self-effacement were in keeping with the scriptural injunction laid down by the Guru: "Exercise forbearance in the midst of power, and be humble in the midst of honour."

The author has paid a well deserved tribute to Banda Bahadur as a great military genius, a benevolent ruler and a crusader for justice. There was a tremendous disparity in numbers and resources between Banda and his enemies but the way he and his chosen companions fougth against a whole host of the opposing troops has hardly a parallel. With his indomitable spirit, Banda Singh defied three Mughal emperors in succession and carved out an independent Sikh state between the river Jhelum and Jamuna. He lived and died like a hero, refusing to be cowed down by the overwhelming force or his circumstances.

Having accomplished his mission in Punjab, he seized upon an opportunity of confronting the Mughal forces in their capital. After withstanding a prolonged siege in the mud fortress of Gurdas Nangal in 1715, he finally gave himself up along with his companions, in stead of attempting an escape by cutting the enemy live.

The composure with which Banda singh and his men suffered the worst kind of brutalities at the hands of their tormentors left their contemporaries awe struck. They kept their tumost cool even in the face of imminent death. None of them renounced his faith to save his life.

Banda Singh and his men carried on the glorious traditions of sacrifices and martyrdom for the cause of righteousness handed down to them by the Gurus. It was Banda?singh great legacy which led to the future struggle of the Sikhs in the face of worst persecution in the turbulent 18th century and sustained the vision of Guru Gobind Singh.

Raj Pal Singh has attempted a good evaluation of Banda Singh Bahadur?s multifaceted personality, his many-sided attainments and his unique place in history. He has made useful contribution to our understanding of a great hero whose role in history has not been adequately highlighted. The book is bound to encourage academicians to undertake further detailed research in this area.

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  • 3 months later...

Actually Banda "Singh" never took Amrit

As such, he is always referred to as Banda Bahadur, or Banda Bahadur Bhairagi (+ variations), but never Banda "Singh" Bahadur within the pre-British Raj historical texts that speak of him.

Ref: Pracheen Panth Prakash, Sheheed Rattan Singh Bhangu, 1853

(of course, if anyone can prove otherwise, pls come forward)

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narsingha this is what i found on banda singh bahadurs life

Banda was born on 16 October 1670 at Rajori Village in Jammu. He was named Lachman Das. Wrestling, horseback riding, and hunting were his major hobbies. As a young man he shot a deer and was shocked to watch the mother and her aborted doe writhing in pain and dying. After this gloomy scene he had a change of heart. He left his home and became a disciple of a Bairagi sadhu who gave him the name Madho Das. In the company of the sadhus he traveled to Nanded, situated on the bank of the river Godawari, where he built a hut to meditate upon God.

Banda joins Khalsa Panth

In September of 1708, Guru Gobind Singh happened to go to Madho Das’ hut while hunting. Madho Das was impressed by the personality of the Guru. The Guru asked him, “Who are you?†In great humility, he replied, “I am your banda (slave).†After taking Amrit, he was given a Sikh name, Gurbakhsh Singh – but he remained popular known as Banda. Historians, therefore, mention him as Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, or simply as Banda Bahadur.

:?

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Can you confirm what historical source the website has used for reference? As you are well aware websites cannot be trusted :wink:

Ironic that people quote from a website that has not given an historical reference to substantiate their information, yet people attempt refuting what is on www.sarbloh.info which HAS given historical sources.

You may be correct, but it would be good to have a solid literary reference rather than using a website (without historical sources) as being true. :)

Btw, do you refer to a Kara as a "Steel Bangle" (hence ur alias here?)

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Guest Javanmard

sorry steel bangle but I am afraid narsingha quotes the right sources. In fact in Bandabahadar's letter to mata ji he says that he's only a vairagi and not a sikh. does not not mean we don't appreciate some of the stuff he did but in the end he disobeyed Guru Gobind SIngh! sad but true :cry:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Moderator note: Can you post that letter?

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Is it true that Banda [singh?] Bahadur was tortured and his poor baby son cut up infront of him because he made a mistake in marrying?Didn't Sri Guru Gobind Singh explicitly tell him not to get married.I'm not that clued up on Banda [singh?] Bahadur.If I'm wrong, please correct me.

Also can someone post any links to more info on Banda Bahadur?

I definately want to look into if he took Amrit or not.

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One of my friend he is Hindu Historian told me that Banda Singh Bhadhur was originally "Brahmin" not Rajput. Does anybody has any knowledge about it?

Also, please support your claims guys otherwise you will see your posts getting deleted.

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Sat Sri Akal:

So Gurbaksh Singh (aka. Banda Singh Bahadur) was not a Sikh eh? What next, I wonder...

Well, one source begs to differ. Mahan Kosh, by Bhai Kahn Singh of Nabha, writes:

"Madhodas surrendered to Satguru Ji and called himself Guru's Banda. Kalgidhar Ji bestowed him with Amrit and named him Gurbakhash Singh, however he continued to be known as 'Banda' in the Panth."

Page 894, Mahan Kosh. Credit goes to Sikhnet post by Bhai Yuktanand Singh (http://www.sikhnet.com/sikhnet/discussion.nsf/0/A49F11F3874B190587256BA20019F19E?OpenDocument).

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More reading for Banda Singh Bhadhur.

http://allaboutsikhs.com/gurudwaras/gd-banda.htm

I think historian Khafi Khan has mentioned about him so we can confirm his source to know more about him. But I love his bravery....

Here is something amazing:

Mr M. Gregor wrote that Banda Bahadur was a man of undaunted valour and bravery. The coolness with which he met his death, earned praise for Banda even from historians like Khafi Khan.

Banda Bahadur took over the leadership of the Sikhs after the death of

Guru Go bind Singh. On embracing Sikhism he became a staunch amritdhari follower of the tenth Guru, and followed the teachings of the Gurus in theory and practice. He lived a pure and simple life.

During his time followers of Sikh faith increased. He also baptised

a number of Muslims and brought them into the new faith. Nawab Amin-ud-Daula writes in the third Ruqat-I-Amin-Ud-Daula as follows - Many Hindus and Musalmans adopted their faith and rituals. And their chief (Banda Bahadur) captivated the hearts of Musalmans who came in contact with him.

He addressed them with the title of Singh. Accordingly, Dinder Khan, a powerful ruler of neighbourhood was named Dinder Singh and Mir Nasir-ud-Dinas Mir Nasir Singh. In the same way a large number of Musalmans abandoned Islam and adopted the path of Sikhism

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Guest BikramjitSingh

Narsingha

I could have bet my life on the fact that you would say that Banda Singh never took Amrit. You are after all following a Hindu agenda.

FYI

Your favourite historian Giani Gian Singh (Shamsher Khalsa ) writes

" Guru Ji Nay usnoon athithi soorbeer samajhke Guru ghar da Sikh banah kar uss da naam Banda Singh rakh ditta "

The Guru considering Banda as a great warrior converted him into a Sikh of the Guru and named him Banda Singh

Panth Parkash page 328

Dasma Gur jab Singhan kera des birarhan tiag achhera

dakhan des vikhe chal gayo wali sadh ik tanhi milyo

chela keeno sehaj subhavik ar pikh tis hi ko laiak

Gur Banda Singh naam dhario hai

When the Tenth Guru and his Singhs left the country of the Brars ( Talwandi sabo ), in the Deccan he met a sadh, he made him his follower and named him Banda Singh

Is there another was for a a Madho das to become Banda SINGH apart from Khande da Amrit ?

Lallesvari

The Panth Parkash written by Rattan Singh suffers from the fact he has recorded all the hearsay that existed between the Tat Khalsa and the followers of Banda Singh. Most of the antagonism between Bandais and Tat Khalsa occurred after the martydom of Banda Singh. The historian Ganda Singh a scholar of Persian examined all the persian works

in the private collections and libraries of India in the 1930's. There is nothing of the negotiations between the Mughals and Mata Sundri. Something on which Rattan Singh relies heavily to paint Banda Singh as a patit from the Guru ghar.

The facts are that after the martyrdom of Banda Singh, he was virtually forgotten by the Tat Khalsa, the few followers of Banda that remained disappeared from the official history. A Dera was set up in Jammu by a supposed son of Banda Singh and he had some followers. The present gaddi holders of the Dera are Keshadhari Sikhs, in the 1930's the Dera head wrote to Ganda Singh and stated that Banda Singh had been a Khalsa Sikh. Because of the antagonism between Bandais and Tat Khalsa, Banda Singh was forgotten by the Sikhs, in the 1920's the Hindus who were getting a new found sense of 'Hindu' nationalism needed a figure for north India just as they had one for South India ( ie Shivaji Maharatta ), so they used the forgotten Sikh hero and made him into a Hindu bairagi leading a rebellion for 'Hindu Pride'.

Presently there is a hindu organisation in Punjab which considers him to have been a Bairagi and not to have taken Amrit, it's political backers are the usual suspects, the RSS .

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Guest BikramjitSingh

One of my friend he is Hindu Historian told me that Banda Singh Bhadhur was originally "Brahmin" not Rajput. Does anybody has any knowledge about it?

Hindu and historian aren't these two words mutually exclusive ?

Common saying

Sikhan kol Ithehaas

Hinduan kil Mithiaas

Sikhs have a history

Hindus have mythology

Banda Singh has been variously described as being a Rajput from Jammu or a Khatri from Himachal

GurFateh

Bikramjit

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We have mythology as well in form of Sakis so we can't ridicule their mythology. Also, its kind of disappointing that they have so much love and affection for their mythology and we sikhs after 500 years of history not mythology still looking for issues like Ragmaala, meat issues and keski etc.

Describing and proving something is quiet different values to someone's image and background and you will agree on it. I have read two or three article from Sikh writers in Ajit news paper where they have written him as Bhardwaj Brahmin and it is also description so in that case we should add brahmin to his background as well when we have him as Rajput and Khatri.

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GABROO Ji you said:

Sikh history to me is what the gurus have writen. ie. Gurbani.

Gurbani is not mythology, we all know that.However you are aware that there are numerous mythological references in Gurbani.You know that don't you?You do read Gurbani don't you?And do you know how mythology is meant to be interpreted right?

Mythology is allegorical and metaphorical way of imparting Gyan, Divine knowledge.You understand this don't you?Most ignorant people think that mythology is just a collection of stories.You have to look deeper than that.

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Guest BikramjitSingh

For someone who is the first to ask for references.. any chance of telling us who these writers in Ajit are who say that Banda Singh was a Brahmin ?.

FYI

Rajput

irvine in later Mughals

Karam Singh in Banda Bahadur

Veni Prasad in Guru Gobind Singh

Khatri

James Browne - rise an progress of Sikhs

Hakim Rai - Banda Bahadur chela Guru Gobind Singh

Bhardwaj is a clan of Brahmins as well as Jammu rajputs

GurFateh

Bikramjit

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To return to the original question and to muddy the waters further, here are my two cents:There is little question that Banda became a Sikh of Gurū Gobind Singh. There is some contention over whether he took Khande di Pahul and became a Khālsa Sikh.

Hari Ram Gupta is strongly of the opinion that Banda was not baptised into the Khālsa fraternity (History of the Sikh Vol II pp4-6) . Citing largely political reasons as the motivator, Gupta quotes from Rattan Singh Bhangu’s Prachin Panth Prakash and Giani Gian Singh’s Panth Parkash. Other historians have also supported this view, Kartar Singh Kalaswalia, bab Bhdur, 1924 (Gurmukhi), Karam Singh Historian in Jiwan Britant Baba Banda Bahadur, Chief Khālsa Diwan (Gurmukhi), Bhai Sohan Singh, Banda the Brave pp 27-28, Daulat Rai xx, Sir Denzil Ibbetson, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Vol 1, Lahore (1919) pg 698 and Khazan Singh, History and Philosophy of the Sikh Religion, Lahore 1914, pg 207. Gupta, further quoting Santokh Singh’s Suraj Granth states; ‘He was not in accord with the Khālsa. Without the Gurū’s approval he started his own sect. He did not take baptism of the dagger. He did not adopt the Sikh way of life. He did not eat meat and drink wine, and did not wear black clothes’.

Given the obvious contradictions in this quotation and the availability of no contemporaneous accounts one must look elsewhere for any evidence to the contrary. This is provided by a number of equally eminent historians, namely; Ahmed Shah Batalia, Zikre Guran wa Ibta-I-Singhan wa Mazhab-I-Eshan, Page 11), Ali-ud-Din Mufti, Ibrta Nama pp 39 and Kanihya lal, Tarikh-I-Punjab pp56, which states that ‘in spite of the fact the he belonged to a Bairagi Sect he became a disciple of Gurū Gobind Singh and, having taken pahul became a Sikh of the Gurū’. Further credible sources pointing to Banda becoming a Khālsa Sikh are provided in Banda Bahudur , Dr GS Deol, new Acedemic Publishing 1972, pp23-25.

Hope this helps

Aman

PS - the section above is some (now discarded) text from our forthcoming book "Sicques, Tigers or Thieves": Eyewitness Accounts of the Sikhs (1606-1809), NeW York:Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.

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