Mystique of Banda Singh Bahadur
According to Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, “If there is a Mystique about someone or something, they are thought to be special and people do not know much about them.” Banda Singh Bahadur was a mystique to his contemporaries and remained so for the following more than two hundred and twenty five years. The credit goes to Dr Ganda Singh, who for the first time discredited the false allegations attributed to Banda. He advocated and sought right place in Sikh history for Banda Singh Bahadur. Dr Ganda Singh brought Banda in lime light because what Banda accomplished had not been done by any other Sikh general. Even dead, he inspired panic among his enemies. His enemies were only sharing in the superstitions of the age. The Sikhs, who were in small numbers, faced the well trained armies of the Mughals in faith of the mystique of Banda and his promise of victory.Many a time they were victorious. Moreover, they had partaken Amrit of Khanda-Bata. The mystique of Amrit instilled in them confidence and valour. The Sikhs, imbibed in the mystique of Amrit and Gurbani, defied the most powerful Mughal Empire, their injustice and atrocities against the Hindus and Sikhs.
Thus, Banda became an outstanding leader of men because of the blessing of Guru Gobind Singh and partaking of Amrit which charged and aroused his dormant energies
Banda was endowed with Guru’s benediction and authority. He was endowed with extraordinary, super human capacities as many of his contemporaries believed. The masses followed Banda Bahadur because he presented to them a model of their welfare state and civilization of humanity in general. He was a man gifted with special strength of soul and mind called genius. This power is based on the predominance of moral strength.
Were the accounts of all battles, save only those of Chappar Chiree, effaced from the pages of Sikh history, the soldier and statesman would still possess a mine of untold wealth from which to extract nuggets of knowledge, useful in moulding an army and social engineering. The soldier cannot learn his profession solely by practice. Though weapons change, he must go to the past to learn the basic elements of the art of war. No where may one find them better illustrated than in the career of Banda Singh Bahadur some 300 years ago. He founded the first Sikh Raj within the Mughal Empire. It extended from Jumna to Sutlej. Lohgarh became the chief capital of the Sikh Raj and it threatened to engulf the forces of Islam. Babur and his descendants owed much to their predecessors, who had perfected the Mughal military machine but Banda Singh Bahadur developed his own military tactics and strategy, and by enlisting the help of ascetic warriors from the Bairagi yogi deras. Banda’s forces were always greatly out numbered but with that small dedicated band of men, many a time he crushed the Mughal forces. The most outstanding example of this is the victory at Chappar Chiri.
Banda was blessed by the great Guru. He had an unconquerable will, a violent energy of body and mind, an utter ruthlessness for tyrants. But his greatness lay in something more than that. He had the ability to brush away all traditions to go straight to any problem with completely new approach. He took all the available methods, technique, weapons and moulded them to his purpose. He was the first Sikh warrior to organise a force for the exclusive purpose of waging war against the Mughals in order to get the country free from the unjust rule of the Mughals. Three hundred years ago he had the modern concept of ‘total war’. In the Sikh soldiers and horse he had the magnificent raw material. The horse was tireless compassion of the soldier. The Sikh rider could stay in saddle for a day and a night with little food or no food. In equipping this inspired soldier Banda Singh showed his genius for tactics and strategy.
Behind Banda’s forces was the peasantry and the down trodden people of the Punjab. They were all working to produce food and equipment for Banda while they themselves lived on as little as possible.
The tactics developed by Banda Singh Bahadur were a marvel of precision acquired by intensive practice. Banda’s attack was successful not by superiority of weapons but the speed in bringing those weapons into fight with the enemy, and then by rapidity and accuracy of fire. Thus, the seasoned warriors of Mughal forces broke before the Sikh ranks, hail of arrows and their inspiring loud slogan, “Bole So Nihal - Sat Sri Akal.” Banda Singh Bahadur taught the Indians that the Sikhs were an identity apart, superior to all others.
Banda Singh Bahadur gave a practical shape to the Sikh mission designed by Guru Gobind Singh whose spirit was present in the venture. As soon as this spirit entered into Banda Singh Bahadur through the Amrit then it brought a revolution in the Punjab and the centuries old well established Mughal rule was shattered. Banda was immune to the pains and pleasures of life. He had taken the Amrit of Khande-Batta which made him fearless of death and above the temptations of worldly pleasures. History keeps alive only those brave persons who have created new traditions by shedding their own blood.
Banda Singh Bahadur is a renowned leader of the Sikhs who gave a practical shape to the ethos and philosophy of 239 years formulated by the great Sikh Gurus. The society formed according to the Sikh tenets was made all powerful by Banda Singh Bahadur. Thus, Banda Singh Bahadur is as prominent in Sikh history as Alexander in the Greek, Napolean in the French and Lenin in the Russian History. The struggle of Banda Singh Bahadur was a political revolution. This created such bench marks which hold good even today.
The Muslim officials of those days inflicted untold atrocities on the people who were forced to live a very miserable existence. The hungry and miserable people found in Banda their own Messiah. That is why they joined the forces of Banda.
The conquests of Banda were because of his agility in the battle and the way he maneuvered his forces. The common people especially the Muslims attributed all this to Banda’s supernatural powers. In fact, the elite courtiers were leading a life of utter luxury and had lost the will to fight. The common soldiers were cowards and ran away from the battle field when they could. These two reasons contributed a lot to the conquests of Banda Singh Bahadur.
It is true that Banda became arrogant and he started his own way of salutation - Sache Sahib ki Fateh instead of Waheguru ki Fateh. The common people had come to believe that Banda was an incarnation of Guru Gobind Singh and they started addressing him as Sucha Patshah. This is a historical fact that the Singhs and Banda Singh Bahadur did not part company till their martyrdom. The teaching of the Sikh Gurus changed the life style of the Sikhs. The partaking of Khande ka Pahul prepared the Sikhs to sacrifice their all for the sake of their Gurus and Panth.
With the blessing of Guru Gobind Singh himself, Banda Singh Bahadur undertook his mission and after capture of Sirhind established the Khalsa Govt in 1710 “Raj Karega Khalsa.” This couplet, has worked as a slogan to remind the followers of the great Gurus of the ultimate triumph of truth, of their destiny and their commitment to social responsibilities and struggle to ensure genuine freedom and equality of all human beings. It has inspired the Sikhs to make sacrifices unparalleled in history, for the cause of bringing about the kingdom of God on earth. The couplet shows that the Sikhs had no doubt about their social and political goal of full suzerainty.
The greatest revolutionary and humanitarian work that the Sikh rule did was Banda’s distribution of land among the poorest tiller of land. Banda Singh created “The Bold Peasantry” which continues to be the backbone and the fundamental strength of the Sikh society. In the French Revolution, which took place in 1789, the peasant and the poor had no place. The achievement of the Sikhs Gurus and Banda Singh Bahadur were in every respect far superior to and more lasting than those of the French Revolution. Thus, “Raj Karega Khalsa” is a slogan perfectly in consonance with the injunctions and thesis of the Gurus.
The first of the great Sikh generals, Banda Singh Bahadur, a man of multiple genius, will be fondly remembered as one of the most glorious generals of Sikh history. Those who knew him best believed that his motive power came from Guru-Kala (power bestowed by the Guru) a blend of matchless energy, a combination of intelligence and memory and the great ambition to realize the vision of Sikh Raj. In the words of Shakespeare, “When comes such another?”
He inherited his strong will (genes) from parents and deep spiritual sense from Guru Gobind Singh. He finally chopped a Sikh Raj out of a wide sub-continent ruled by the followers of Islam. Three hundred years have added to his glory. No other Sikh general has in any way taken his place as the Sikh Panth’s best general. He was bitterly realistic about contemporary Panthic weaknesses, but he never lost an intuitive understanding of its strength.
All the courage and sufferings of the battles against the Mughuls might be lost in the confusion of a peace with a policy and a system. His practical sense, bold vision and reformer’s zeal suggested to him to adopt a policy to give land to the tiller and set them free from the centuries old feudal system. Thus, Banda Bahadur became a pioneer of land reforms. The most enlightened nations of the world followed his system 80 years later. The country of Banda’s birth could abolish the system only after 1947.
Banda Bahadur brought to unhappy millions throughout the Punjab the most just, merciful and intelligent rule they had ever known. He had conceived and half achieved a country of freemen, all equal citizens in one great community. He had founded the Sikh Raj, upon whose foundation stones grew up the Sikh Empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Within his life time a legend of glory had already begun to form about him. Banda was portrayed as a man of the common people. They believed he was one of them and that he was for them. He gave wings to the human mind. He prepared us to be free. So, rests in honoured peace one of the greatest Sikh generals who rendered selfless service towards the forward march of civilization. The following comment of Shakespeare about Julius Ceasar is very aptly applicable to Banda Singh Bahadur,
“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man!””
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2011, All