Saka Nankana Sahib – A Contemporary Account
Saka at Nankana Sahib occurred on February 20, 1921. 156 Sikhs were Killed ( Martyred) by The Mahant Narian Dass. Why and how did it happen, as narrated to me by my Grandmother during 1945-46.
Why Did It happen
The Gurdwara JanamAsthan at Nankana Sahib was under the control of Mahant NarianDass. These Mahants were heridtary and considered Gurdwara as their personal property. Unfortunately the British Government had also accepted this as the legal position. (They were always at the back of and in favour of the Mahants). The Charat (donations) in the Golak was plenty. This had made the Mahant Narian Dass a debauch and corrupt.
Those who have visited the Gurdwara Sahib know that after climbing three steps, there is a big entrance gate, which opens on to a huge courtyard paved with marble. Towards the far end of this courtyard , there is a room about 10 ft by 10 feet wherein Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Parkash is done and a singh sits in Tabia. The Ragi Singhs sit outside this room and do the kirtan. On the right hand side of the courtyard there is Jand Tree (prosopisspecigera). On the extreme left there is a small door opening into the gali. It is a service door.
The mahant used to get singing and dancing girls from Lahore and make them dance in the premises of the Gurdwara Sahib. There were frequent sessions of drinking and dancing inside the premises.
Those days under the influence of writings of Giani Dit Singh ji and Giani Gurmukh Singh ji, Singh Sabha Movement had started which had taken hold in all the District Headquarters of Punjab. These reports about wrong actions of the Mahant were very upsetting and distressing.
It was resolved to take control of the Gurdwara from the Mahant. The plan was to go the Gurdwara Sahib in a peaceful assembly and request the Mahant to abdicate with sufficient finances being provided for his good living.
The Mahant through his agents at Lahore came to know about it. He decided to resist the move. For the purpose, he hired Goons, collected plenty of Arms and Ammunition and Kerosin Oil. His plan was to kill all intruders.
How Did it Happen
It was planned that the Jatha will assemble at the Mana Wala Jhal (A small dam on a canal). Mana Wala is about 10 miles north of Nankana Sahib. The Jatha was to move peacefully to the Gurdwara Sahib.
When the Sikhs at Lahore came to know about the Mahants preparations and Plan to kill the Sikhs, they sent a message for the Jatha NOT to Proceed to Nankana Sahib.
The person who was to deliver this message to the Jatha at Mana Wala, on reaching Nankana Sahib, went to S. Uttam Singh Karkhanewale, had his meals and slept there. There used only one train which ran to and from Nankana Sahib to Lahore. The train arrived in Nakana sahib in the evening to go further to Jarhan Wala and then to Shor Kot Road. The messenger overslept and got up late in the morning.
Meanwhile the Jatha at the Mana Wala Jhal had assembled under the leadership of S. Kartar Singh Jhabal. By the time, this old man from Lahore reached them next morning to deliver the message “NOT to Proceed”, the Jatha had already done the Ardas. On receiving the message which was delivered late, S. Kartar Singh Jhabal said, having offered the Ardas, we cannot go back on it. This is not as per the Khalsa ji ethos or history.. Sowe will proceed irrespective of the consequences.
After this peaceful Jatha had entered the Gurdwara Sahib and sat down to listen to the Kirtan, the Mahant got the main gate closed. (The compound walls at the Gurdwara Sahib are around 4 meters high). He asked his goons to fire on the sitting Sikhs, killing and wounding many. Those who were wounded were also burnt alive after pouring kerosin oil and lighting it.
Two Sikhs who were fully alive under the heap were pulled out, tied to the Jand and burnt alive. They were Bhai Daleep Singh and Bhai Lachman Singh.
The news of this massacer reached Lahore. The Govt got worried and the Governor of Punjab himself came down to Nankana Sahib. The Mahant and his goons were arrested and put on trial. They were awarded Life imprisonment. Those days it meant 14 years behind bars but he got some remission due to good conduct in jail. The Mahant after release went to Una (now in Himachal Pardesh) and settled down there, where he died after a few years.
After his death, his wife, Mahantni (Mahants’ wife) asked for forgiveness from the Panth which was granted, because she had no personal role, but given the Tankha (punishment) of walking barefooted from Una to Nankana Sahib; which she did.
I distinctly remember my mom going to Gurdwara Kiara Sahib to receive her. She told us , her thighs were swollen like that of an elephant’s leg and they took turns to message it.
The Mahantni stayed at Nankana Sahib only. She stayed in a house behind Tehsildar Rattan Singh’s house in the colony left of grain market as one comes out of Gurdwara Maldi Sahib. She used to come to our house occasionally.
What happened after 1947, I do not know. Where did she go I do not know.