Updated: October 13, 2021 2:33:47 pm
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi represents the Assembly constituency of Chamkaur Sahib, which is of significance in Sikh history as well as contemporary politics — it was in the news recently when the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) gave it to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) amidst opposition from leaders in Punjab. Historically, this was where that Guru Gobind Singh lost two of his elder sons in a battle with the coalition forces of Mughals and the hill rajas.
What was the recent political row about?
Following the SAD move giving the reserved seats of Chamkaur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib to the BSP in June, many including Congress MP Ravneet Bittu had slammed the SAD for giving away two seats of such religious importance. The SAD retaliated by accusing Bittu of being casteist, and also complained to the Punjab State Commission for Scheduled Castes, following which Bittu apologised. Within the SAD, a senior leader quit in protest. With the new CM representing it, Chamkaur Sahib and its history are again in focus.
What is this history?
The coalition forces of Mughals and hill rajas led by Wazir Khan, the Nawab of Sirhind, had laid siege to Anandpur Sahib in the hope of capturing Guru Gobind Singh in May 1704. After seven months of fighting and heavy losses, the coalition forces offered a safe passage to the Guru and his followers. The heads of the coalition pledged they would not harm the Guru, his family, or his soldiers. Col Jaibans Singh, a military historian, writes that the peace treaty was sent in the name of Emperor Aurangzeb himself. But when Gobind Singh and his followers stepped out of the Anandpur Sahib fort on the night of December 20, they were attacked. They fled towards Ropar and the swollen Sarsa river. It was while crossing the river on their horses that Gobind Singh was separated from his mother Mata Gujri who was with their two younger sons.
What happened at Chamkaur Sahib?
Amarjit Singh, director of Guru Granth Sahib Studies at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, said the Guru, accompanied by panj piaras (the five Sikhs he had initially baptised), his elder sons Ajit Singh (18) and Jujhar Singh (14), and around 40 soldiers, regrouped in a fortress-like two-storey house, with high compound walls made of mud. They were surrounded by an army commandeered by Wazir Khan and Sher Mohammed Khan, the younger brother of Malerkotla’s chieftain.
The Guru sent out soldiers in small squads for hand-to-hand combat. Two such attacks were led by his sons, both of whom died fighting. Three of the panj piaras — Mohkam Singh, Himmat Singh and Sahib Singh — too died fighting.
Bir Devinder Singh, former Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly and a keen student of history, said Guru Gobind Singh gave an account of the battle in Zafarnama, his letter to Aurangzeb.
How did the battle conclude?
When very few soldiers were left, they decided the Guru should leave so that he could carry on his mission. “It was at the Chamkaur ki garhi (fort) on December 22 that panj piaras issued an edict (hukumnama) ordering the Guru to leave. This was the first edict issued by panj piaras after the formation of the Khalsa on April 13, 1699. They told the Guru, ‘You can get many like us, but we won’t be able to get the like of you’,’’ says Bir Devinder.
Before leaving, the Guru gave his attire and distinguishing kalgi to Sangat Singh, a Mazhabi Sikh who resembled him. Three other soldiers too left the fort, and went in separate directions. The following day, the enemy forced their way inside to find only two soldiers who fought till their last breath.
Five days later, Guru Gobind Singh’s two younger sons, aged nine and seven, were bricked alive for refusing to convert.
How is the battle remembered?
Col Jaibans Singh writes that the battle infused the peasantry with military zeal.
Every year, a shaheedi jor mela, marked by prayers and langar, is held to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh’s young sons and his soldiers.
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