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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

The Role of Sikh Revolution (1699 -1800) in Achieving Freedom from Invaders

Two brilliant revolutions occurred in Bharat which are not comparable with the other revolutions in the world. The first is the change of mind of Bharati people by Gobind Singh to make up their mind to achieve freedom from invaders (Mughal/Afghan rulers) by forming a brotherhood and forgetting about caste, creed, religion, and region throughout Bharat and becoming equipped with arms to become warriors on April 13, 1699 (Baisakhi) at Anandpur Punjab, Bharat. They encouraged at least one person from all families of Khatri, Rajput, Jat, Brahmin, Muslim, and other castes to become a Sikh to fight for freedom. The reasoning was that when all of them became warriors, it would be easier to get freedom. Invaders ruled Bharat for about 800 years because people were divided by caste and region, only Rajput were responsible to save the country, and different states were not united. The second revolution was farmers agitating during 2022-2023 which started in Punjab and spread throughout India. It was purely peaceful and it educated farmers of the world to be united to be wary of large corporates.

With concerted efforts of Banda Bahadur in 1709, he established Sikh Raj in the area between Satluj and Jamna rivers. He was martyred on June 9, 1716. After this, the life for Sikhs continued to be more difficult. The Governor of Lahore issued a proclamation that all Sikhs who believe in the faith of Nanak are to be killed. Whoever would bring the head of a Sikh would be rewarded 50 rupees per head. Greedy people started murdering Sikhs whenever they could find them. This forced the Sikhs to move out of cities and villages into jungles, hills, and marshals just to stay alive.

In 1720, there were mutinies in Kasur, Kashmir, and Multan that kept the Governor of Lahore busy. The Sikhs were able to slowly leave the hills and jungles and began moving back into villages and cities. The Sikhs were able to gather in Amritsar in 1720 after many years. On Baisakhi in 1721, Tat Khalsa made Bhai Mani Singh Chief Granthi and Darvara Singh was appointed Diwan / Chief Minster. In 1726, the Sikhs decided they would take decisive steps against the Government. They felt that Government excesses needed to be answered. Diwan Darvara Singh gathered the Sikhs at Amritsar and proposed three resolutions:

  1. Any money found from the Government treasuries would be looted on the way.

  2. Police stations would be attacked to obtain horses and weapons.

  3. Informers and spies for the Government would be eliminated.

The Governor of Lahore, Zakria Khan, on Baisakhi (1733) sent a peace message with Subeg Singh that said the Government of Delhi and Lahore hereby make peace with the Khalsa and offer these accommodations:

  1. An estate of rupees 100,000 for Khalsa’s livelihood.

  2. The title of Nawab for the Khalsa.

  3. Total freedom for the Khalsa to visit and maintain Gurdwaras.

Bhai Kapur Singh was chosen and given the title of Nawab. Kapur Singh organized Khalsa into two Dals. Buddha Dal and Tarna Dal. However with the increased numbers in the Dals, income of the state was insufficient to take care of the Khalsa. To meet the expenses, the squads of Tarna Dal stared raiding outside the Punjab. The Government of Delhi held Zakria Khan responsible for the looting by the Singhs in the country. In retaliation, in May, Zakria Khan took back the estate given to the Khalsa. Zakria Khan got Bhai Mani Singh martyred and destroyed the Harmandir Sahib.

In 1739, Nadir Shah (Persia) invaded India. On his return, Sikhs attacked Nadir Shah’s caravan carrying the loot. The Sikhs were successful as they were trained in guerrilla war. Zakria Khan encouraged Massa Ranghar to occupy the Harmandir Sahib. Mahtab Singh and Sukha Singh came from Rajasthan and beheaded Massa Ranghar and walked away with his head.

In 1745, Zakria Khan died and his son Shah Niwaz Khan became Governor of Lahore. In June 1746, the first Ghalughara of Sikhs took place. About 7000 Sikhs died in the fight. In 1747, Ahmad Shah Abdali assassinated Nadir Shah and became the ruler of Afghanistan. From 1748-1768 Abdali invaded India eight times. In February 1748, Abdali defeated the Mughal Viceroy of Lahore and merged Lahore with Afghanistan. Sikhs took control of large parts of Punjab. Kapur Singh died on October 7, 1753. After that, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia took responsibility of the Sikhs. The Khalsa who spent their days in jungles, marshes and mountain caves, now ran Punjab. This achievement was the result of the guidance of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and the bravery of the Sikhs. Jassa Singh died on October 23,1783. Raja Ranjit Singh united different Misls and became Maha Raja of Punjab in 1799.

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