Baba Banda Singh jee Bahadur was one of the greatest Sikh leader of all times. He avenged the Shaheedis of Sahibzaadas by punishing the aggressors. He won pretty much whole of present day Punjab and Haryana yet he did not have even an iota of lust for ruling. He used to win a territory and hand it over to Khalsa and never assumed the role of a king. He was the first Sikh to issue Khalsa coins and no where on the coin he let his own name be carved but only allowed Siri Guru Nanak Dev jee’s and Siri Guru Gobind Singh jee’s names on there.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur whose original name was Lachhman Daas was born in 1670 at village Rajori in the Jammu state of India. His father’s name was Ram Dev. He trained Banda Singh in wrestling, horseback riding and hunting. As a young man, Banda shot a pregnant deer and was shocked to watch the mother and her aborted doe die painfully. This gloomy scene changed his heart. He left his home and became a Sadhu (recluse). He took the name of Madho Daas. He wandered from place to place and learnt the art of magic and miracles and established his monastery at Nander, a place in the Southern India.
Meeting Guru Gobind Singh Ji
Guru Gobind Singh ji visited his monastery in 1708. He tried to practise his tricks of magic on Guruji but failed and became his follower. He bowed before Guruji and said “I am your ‘Banda’ (slave).” Guruji blessed him and inducted him into the Sikh faith by baptizing him. He came to be named as Banda Singh. Guruji acquainted him with the history of the Sikhs and principles of the faith. On learning about the cruelties committed by the Mughals, he was filled with rage and requested Guruji to permit him to go to Punjab and punish the cruel rulers. His request was granted.
Guru Sahib gave him a drum, a Khalsa banner, and five arrows from his personal quiver and appointed him as the leader and commander of the Khalsa forces. Five Sikhs were deputed to accompany him. He was also given a few letters addressed to the leading Sikhs in Punjab. All the Sikhs were called upon to help Baba Banda Singh who was also advised to remain pure in conduct and help the needy.
Entry to Punjab
When Baba Banda Singh entered Punjab, the Sikhs flocked to him. Village after village fell to the advancing Khalsa army led by him. He conquered Samana in 1709, punished the oppressors, and attacked other centers of oppression like Kanjpur, Kapuri and Sadhaura and went on moving forward punishing the tyrants.
Then he turned towards Sarhind whose Governor was responsible for murdering the younger Sahibzadas and subjecting the Sikhs to many hardships. Wazir Khan, the Governor was killed in the battle and Sarhind was taken by the Sikh forces. The Khalsa flags proudly fluttered all over the newly conquered Khalsa territory.
Now Baba Banda Singh was the master of the Punjab, east of Lahore. He made Mukhlispur, a hilly city near Sadhura his capital. He repaired its old fort and renamed it as Lohgarh (Iron Fort). He minted his own Khalsa currency in the name of Guru Nanak Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh ji.
Battle with Mughals
Bahadur Shah, the Mughal Emperor at Delhi learnt about the fast growing power of the Khalsa army, could not tolerate it and sent a huge army of sixty thousand to eliminate the Sikhs. The Fort of Lohgarh was besieged and the Sikhs came under a heavy attack of arrows and musket balls. Due to shortage of provisions and fighting equipment to face such a large enemy force, the Sikhs realized that they could not stand a long siege and the best bet lay in moving out at once. They rushed out and cut their way through the enemy lines one night. Baba Banda Singh with his men disappeared in the hills.
There again, he reorganized his men and resources and moved on to defeat the hill chief of Kahlur. Other hill chiefs submitted to him without a fight. He also conquered some adjoining territories in the plains. Mughal forces kept pursuing him and he had soon to return to the hills of Jammu. Here he temporarily went underground and concentrated on reorganization of his troops.
Then, one day Baba Banda Singh reappeared with his men and conquered some areas of District Gurdaspur. But he was soon besieged by the Mughal Army and hill chiefs in the village of Nangal in District Gurdaspur. Baba Banda Singh and his men fought heroically against heavy odds and held their ground with courage. Their provisions had exhausted. He and his forces lived on grass and leaves of trees. The siege continued for eight long months. Baba Banda Singh and his famished soldiers were taken prisoners and taken to Lahore.
Zakria Khan, the Governor of Lahore, sent 740 Sikh prisoners of war with Baba Banda Singh to Delhi. Heads of 2000 Sikhs were hung on spears and carried along with the prisoners as a show of Mughal army’s superiority over its victims. Hungry and helpless, the brave Sikh prisoners were contented with their lot. There was no sign of sorrow or dejection on their faces. They walked to their sure death with dignity and courage holding their heads high.
On reaching Delhi, the prisoners were taken in a procession through the bazaars of Delhi. One hundred of them were killed daily. They were asked to choose between death and Islam. They had no fear of death. Not even one gave in. They preferred death to life in shame. They had much rather die in honor then spend the rest of their lives in shame. They gladly accepted martyrdom with whispers of Waheguru on their parched lips.
Baba Banda Singh was also offered the usual choice between Islam and death. He chose to die and was tortured to death. His 4 years old baby son was cut into pieces and his little heart was thrust into Baba Banda Singh’s mouth. Baba Banda Singh was calm and unmoved.
On 9 June 1716 (but according Nanakshahi Sanmat:545 it Celebrated on 25th June), Banda’s eyes were gouged, his limbs severed, his skin removed and then he was killed.
The executioner cut Baba Banda Singh into pieces but he remained composed to the last. He achieved his martyrdom in 1716.
There stands a Gurdwara in his memory in Mehrauli, near Qutab Minar, in Delhi.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur thus became a martyr. A Bairagi, having become an Amritdhari Sikh, committed himself to live as a protector of the rights of the people. He offered his own life while fighting the tyranny of the state. Though his rule was short-lived, reforms brought about by him still exist today. Banda Singh demonstrated that the people have within them the power to topple tyrannical rulers.