A tribute to Banda Bahadur

Mehak Kaur Sodhi
Rich tributes have been / are being paid to the legendary Sikh General Banda Singh Bahadur on his 300th martyrdom year. Various programmes and events have been held to highlight the contributions made by him not only for the Sikhs but for the cause of Social Justice.  The Punjab and Haryana Governments participated whole heartedly in showcasing the life of Banda Singh Bahadur as also his contribution not only to the Sikhs but the society in general. Nagar Kirtans were also held in other places including his Birth state Jammu and Kashmir.
Accounts on the life of Banda Singh Bahadur have been written elaborately by renowned historians and writers. However, I have taken reference form the book “Historical Sikh Shrines of Jammu and Kashmir authored by Commodore Dalbir Singh Sodhi and would like to  present some important aspects that clearly define the Magnanimous character of Banda Singh Bahadur. He was  born on 27 Oct 1670 in the Rajouri district of Jammu province and was named Lachmen Dev. At the young age of 15 he left home to become an ascetic. This transformation happened as a result of him hunting a doe and seeing the mother and her aborted fawns writhing in pain and dying. Having spent considerable time with ascetic bairagi Janaki Prasad (who named him Madho Das) and later with Augarh Nath, he traveled to Nanded. In  September 1708 , he met Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Nanded . Guru Gobind Singh baptised him with Amrit and gave him the name Banda Singh. Guru Ji tasked him to go to Punjab and fight against the atrocities being committed by the Mughals. As symbol of authority, the Guru gave him five arrows from his own quiver, a Nishan Sahib and a Nagara. The Guru also sent a council of Five Pyaras and twenty more Sikhs. Banda Singh’s strength lay in the Hukamnamas  of Guru Gobind Singh to various Sikh Sangats asking them to extend support to Banda Singh. Armed with the blessings and Authority of Guru Gobind Singh Ji , he assembled a fighting force and led the struggle against the Mughal Empire.  Banda Singh Bahadur led several successful military campaigns against the Mughals in Punjab and then proceeded to Samana. Samana was the home town of sayed  Jalal-ud-din , who had executed Guru Teg Bahadur as also of Shahal Beg who had carried out the execution of the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh.  On 26 Nov 1709, Banda Singh carried out a lightening assault on Samana and a fierce battle was fought. After concurring Samana, Banda Singh made Bhai Fateh Singh the commander of the town and stormed Ghuram, Thaska and Mustabad. On 22 May 1710, Banda Singh attacked Sirhind and killed Wazir Khan.
Banda Singh then captured Sadhaura and chose the fort of Mukhlispur (built in the time of emperor Shah Jahan) as capital of the emerging Sikh state. Banda Singh restored the crumbling citadel and renamed it Lohgarh . He hoisted the flag of the Khalsa on its ramparts. In order to give Lohgarh added authority as the administrative capital of their territories, an official seal and coins were issued to celebrate the Sikh rule. Whereas, Mughal emperors issued Seals and coins under their names, Banda Singh on the other hand issued coins and his Seal in the name of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh.
Persian inscription on the coin issued by Banda Singh read
Sikkah Zad Bar Har Do Alam Tegh-i-Nanak Wahib Ast
Fateh Gobind Singh Shah -i- Shahan
Fazal-i-Sacha Sahib Ast
Coins struck for the two worlds with the sword of Nanak and the Victory granted by the grace of Gobing Singh, King of Kings and the true Emperor.
Words on the other side of the coin read
Zarb ba Aman-ud-Dahar
Masawarat Shahar Zinat-ut-Takth-i-Mubarikh Bahht
Struck in the heaven of refuge, the beautiful city, the ornament of the blessed throne.
The official Seal had inscription
Degh O Tegh O Fateh O Nusrat-i-Bedirang
Yaft Az Nanak Guru Gobind Singh
The inscription eulogised the kettle (representing Sikh commitment to feed the poor) The Sword (the symbol of power) , Victory and unqualified patronage as attributes bequeathed by Nanak to Guru Gobind.
The mughals after consolidation (with a huge army) carried out attack on Sadhaura. After a prolonged battle, Banda Singh eluded capture and went into the hills. Banda Singh stayed in the hills of Jammu at Riasi (from Oct 1713 to Feb 1715) on the banks of River Chenab consolidating his forces and waiting for a favourable opportunity to strike for the freedom of his people.  Banda Singh Bahadur finally attained Martyrdom at Mehrauli on 9 June 1716.
Some of the landmark qualities and attributes that define the magnanimity, integrity, devotion and commitment of  Banda Singh Bahadur are as follows:-
(a)    Banda Singh Bahadur was personally chosen and baptised by  Guru Gobind Singh Ji to fight against the atrocities being committed by  the Mughals.
(b)    He laid the foundation of the Sikh empire in the year 1710.
(c)    Though he fought back against religious persecution of Hindus     and Sikhs , he allowed Muslims to practice their faith fearlessly in the     boundaries of Sikh nation.
(d)    He raised the lowest of the low to the highest position in his government.
(e)    He introduced greatest fiscal reforms by abolishing the Zamindari     system of     the Mughals  that had reduced the cultivators to the position     of slaves.
(f)    He honoured the preaching of Guru Gobind Singh in that during     one of his     military campaigns he did not plunder the village Maler Kotla     since its Ruler Sher Muhammed had advocated mercy for the children     of Guru Gobind Singh at the time     of their execution in Sirhind.
(g)    He placed before the people practical demonstration of Supreme     Sacrifice to uphold the cause of Social  Justice.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir has the distinction of being a multifaceted secular state with a unique cultural blend. Jammu and Kashmir is not only the land of magnetism and picturesque beauty; it is the land of art, music, passion and courage as well. The State of Jammu and Kashmir is proud of some of the personalties who have proved their mettle in their respective fields and made history.  I consider that one of such courageous and great Secular minded personality who has not been given the due recognition by the State is the great Sikh Icon Banda Singh Bahadur who has the distinction of being blessed by the Tenth Sikh Guru Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji . Whereas, The Governments of Punjab and Haryana have made memorials in the name of Banda Singh Bahadur, the Delhi Govt paid rich tributes to the Sikh general this year by naming the Barapullah flyover as Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Setu. This is the high time that the State Government acknowledges the immense contribution of the Son of the soil Banda Singh Bahadur by constructing a memorial befitting the stature of S. Banda Singh Bahadur.