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Banda Singh Bahadur: Protector of Dharma

WebdeskJun 09, 2021, 08:33 AM IST

Banda Singh Bahadur: Protector of Dharma


Veer Banda Bairagi, the founder of first independent Sikh rule in Punjab, sacrificed his life for the protection of Sanatan Dharma. He changed the course of history by scuttling Aurangzeb’s mission to make Bharat an Islamic nation. At a time when a section of the Sikh community is becoming a pawn in the hands of anti-national forces, it is important to recapture the Dharmic ideals that inspired Banda and Great Sikh Gurus


-Dr Boonda Singh



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Lachhman Das was a young Hindu Rajput boy, who became an ascetic, and came to be called as Madho Dass Bairagi. He was later baptised as a Sikh by Sri Guru Gobind Singh, and became Banda Singh Bahadur -- who was the founder of first independent Sikh rule in Punjab, despite the vast Mughal Empire around.

There is a lot of folklore around why Madho Dass chose to become a disciple of Guru Gobind Singh -- the most common one being that he was an evil proud man who used to make a person sit on his bed, and the bed would be lifted up to the roof by his spiritual powers in order to harass the guest. One day when Guru Gobind Singh came to his house, he tried to do the same trick, but failed, and as a result his pride was vanquished, and being humbledhe got impressed by the Guru and became his disciple. Another folklore is that Guru Gobind Singh came to his house, and along with his disciples, he slaughtered the goats of Madho Dass and cooked meat. When Madho Dass returned home, he was incensed as he was a vegetarian Hindu. Guru Gobind Singh reasoned with him that when he was angry at the slaughter of animals, how could be ignore the slaughter of so many Hindus by Aurangzeb, and this argument convinced Madho Dass to become a Sikh and take up weapons.

Yet, folklore will remain folklore, and although it may sound to be a good story to read and recite, and to impress, it may not necesarily be a true reflection of the actual event. What had then made Madho Dass Bairagi become a Sikh?

As his background, Lachhman Dass was a very compassionate Rajput, and during his childhood days, he was interested in hunting. In one of his hunting expeditions, he had shot a pregnant deer, which died in front of him, and the new born baby deer she delivered also died soon after. This moved Lachhman Dass into such a state of severe repentance that he gave up his Rajput outlook, and became an ascetic by the name of Madho Dass Bairagi.



Banda led Peasant Revolt Against Mughals


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Tribute to the Great Son of Bharat on his Death Anniversary


  • Renouncing his comfortable life, Veer Banda Bairagi left his home at the age of 15. He was enamored by the tenth Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh. Encouraged by him, Veer Banda Bairagi decided to fight for the protection of Dharma, which was reeling under the onslaught of Mughals. Sri Guru Gobind Singh gifted Banda Singh five arrows, one Nagara, five Khalsa Singhs and a handwritten message for Sangat.
  • Baba Banda Singh Bahadur led a revolt that is said to be the first peasant uprising against the Mughals. Khushwant Singh, in his book, A History of Sikhs, writes: “Thus died Banda Bahadur — a man who first chose to renounce the world to live in the peaceful seclusion of a sylvan hermitage, then renounced both pacificism and the life of solitude to rouse a downtrodden peasantry to take up arms; a man who shook one of the most powerful empires in the world to its very foundations with such violence that it was never again able to re-establish its authority.” Blessed by the Guru, he built a formidable army and waged battle against Wazir Khan, the Mughal governor of Sirhind, who had, among other things, executed his younger sons, Zorawar (9) and Fateh (7) Singh. He defeated the Mughal army at the Battle of Chappar Chiri. He established Sikh rule and minted coins in the name of Sri Guru Nanak Dev. He liquidated Muslim zamindars and distributed the land among Sikhs.
  • Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was not only fierce warrior but a smart strategist. When Mughal army laid a siege at Lohgarh to capture Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, he fooled the Mughals by making his General Gulab Singh dress like him. The plan worked and Baba Banda Singh Bahadur escaped the siege successfully.
  • The three generals, Baba Baghel Singh, Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Baba Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, led the Sikh forces to a triumph over Mughal emperor Shah Alam-II in March 1783. The Tis Hazari courts are named after Baba Baghel Singh’s 30,000-strong army that camped at this site. Pul Mithai is the spot where Sikh soldiers used to distribute sweets among the public, while Mori Gate got its name after troops breached a wall to enter the Red Fort. The emperor promptly came up with a peace treaty and accepted the terms laid down by the Sikh leaders. Baba Baghel Singh was allowed to build gurdwaras on historical sites (including Rakab Ganj Sahib and Bangla Sahib). The ‘fauj’ returned to Punjab after construction work was completed.
  • The Mughals were scared of him. Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s army succeeded in capturing Baba Banda Singh in 1715 along with his son and many Sikh warriors. The Mughal army carried out inhuman torture on the captives. They were paraded them all the way to Lahore. The captives were offered the option of converting to Islam to save their lives. Eyes of the captives were gauged out, tongues were chopped, legs and hands were chopped – still they didn’t agree to change their faith. The Mughals took out the heart of Banda’s son and thrust it into his mouth. Still he refused to convert to Islam. 


He was a true Hindu, and followed the principles of Hinduism to the core. He was a very wise and learned man, and was aware of what was going around in India at that time, including the forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam as was resolved by Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor of that time who had taken an oath that he would convert entire India into an Islamic nation. He was also aware of the plight of the Kashmiri Hindus who were forcibly being converted to Islam, or being persecuted. At that time, the martyrdom of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur had sent ripples all over India. The selfless act of Guru Teg Bahadur was not only appreciated, but it also gave a clear message to Hindus all over India that their faith was in grave danger.

Following that, the baptism of Hindus to adopt Khalsa brotherhood was also seen as a single biggest development to challenge the might of Emperor Aurangzeb. The only other force at that time to reckon with was that of Shivaji and the valiant Marathas. It is widely believed that the purpose of Guru Gobind Singh was to join hands with the Marathas.

The martyrdom of the 4 Sahibzaadas of Guru Gobind Singh had created an image of Guru Gobind Singh as a selfless and valiant spiritual leader who led with an example, and one who had the grit and determination to stop the forcible spread of Islam. There was no doubt left in the mind of the common citizenry of India, that the greatest hope to save the Hindu Dharma was to be a part of the Sikh Khalsa force under Guru Gobind Singh. By becoming a Sikh at that time did not mean that one ceased to be a Hindu. The persecution of nascent Sikhs borne out of Hinduism was also continuing at an almost similar rate as they were being inducted into the Sikh force. Thousands of Hindus were adopting the Khalsa baptism, fighting the war, laying their lives, and new ones were taking their place.



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Guru Gobind Singh


The core principle of Sikhism is derived from the same Indo-Vedic concept, and the movement to protect Dharma was a movement where the people who fought and died were sourced from the Hindus themselves, and not from Turks or Afghans


As the movement of Khalsa was geared towards stopping the spread of forcible conversions to Islam, it was a movement driven and sustained by Hindus to join the Khalsa forces and not necessarily at the cost of losing their identity as a Hindu, since at that time there was no boundary demarcating a Sikh from a Hindu, and most households had their elder sons becoming the protector Khalsa for the family. The structure of families at that time was such that Khalsa brotherhood became a defence line for the society, and Hindus came forwards to get at least one of their children, preferably the older one, to adopt Sikhism. There was no question of giving up Hinduism by doing that as it was never considered that these were very distinctly separate religions. It would make no sense for Hindus to adopt a different religion of Sikhism, and then die fighting as a Sikh, because if changing a religion was the need of the day, then Hindus would have easily chosen the easy path instead and become a Muslim, be in the good books of Aurangzeb, and then live comfortably. Then why did the Hindus at that time adopt Sikhism? That would only be possible, if they did not feel that Sikhism was an alien religion ora threat to their identity and ideology, and that by adopting Sikhism, they were not going to adopt a diametrically opposite religion as Islam, but would instead be adopting an ideology which was a mere offshoot of Hinduism itself.

At this point of time, when Guru Gobind Singh approached Madho Dass, the story of sacrifice of his father Guru Teg Bahadur, and also the rest of his family was already household news at that time.The Rajput in Madho Dass was alive as he realised that time had come for him to take the role of a warrior. The reason he chose to become a disciple of the 10th Guru, and what he said was something like this:

‘’I have heard about the sacrifice of your father Sri Guru Teg Bahadur for the sake of saving Hinduism. Now it is the duty of every Hindu to repay this debt to the Guru, by joining the Khalsa movement started by you, his son. I have always thought of repaying this debt, and would like to offer my life to you for it to be used to save Dharma, as a tribute to Guru Teg Bahadur and his martyrdom. From today I am your Banda.’’


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The main pillar of Khalsa brotherhood was laid by Banda Singh Bahadur, who carried the weapons and the hukamnama of the Guru, and during his march to Sirhind, all the Hindu/Sikh peasantry took baptism and became Khalsa. Now there was a new ray of hope for these people who had been suffering religious persecution under Mughals. Soon after Banda Singh Bahadur had left Nanded, and was marching towards Sirhind, news arrived that the 10th Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji had been martyred. Under the leadership of Banda Singh Bahadur, the newly baptised Khalsa forces derived from the Hindus in the belt of India from central to North India won the battle of Sirhind, and established the 1st independent Sikh rule in Punjab.

Much before the advent of Banda Singh Bahadur, when Sri Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa in Anandpur Sahib in 1699, the first 5 people who became baptised as the 1st Khalsa, also known an Punj Pyaaras, were derived from the Hindu community itself--from Lahore, Jagannath Puri, Meerut, Dwarka and Bidar. These were Hindus derived from all 4 corners of the country.



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The Muslims took out the heart of Banda’s son and thrust it into his mouth

Much before the advent of Banda Singh Bahadur, when Sri Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa in Anandpur Sahib in 1699, the first 5 people who became baptised as the 1st Khalsa, also known an Punj Pyaaras, were derived from the Hindu community itself- from Lahore, Jagannath Puri, Meerut, Dwarka and Bidar. These were Hindus derived from all 4 corners of the country 


Therefore the martial Khalsa movement was a self-sustained movement under the leadership of Guru Gobind Singh, and subsequently under Banda Singh Bahadur, where it was Hindus only who sustained it, and the ranks were not derived from Muslims or Christians. Hinduism is a very diverse religion, and is not only about being a Shudra or a Brahmin or a Kayastha or a Rajput, or about following rituals. The key concept is that there has been a Ram, a Krishna, a Parsuram--all have come in some form or the other and saved Dharma. The movement launched by Guru Gobind Singh was a similar one. Sikhism eliminates the differences of all mankind, but that does not come at the cost of removing the Hindu connection from it as the source is derived from Hindus itself, and not from any other community. An association with the parent religion of Hinduism will not take away the global outlook of being a Sikh, or dilute it and reduce it to being a ritualistic Hindu-because Hinduism itself is a vast religion and concept from ancient Indovedic times.The ramifications of Hinduism also include Buddhism and Jainism which are atheist religions–and Sikhism is one offshoot but not atheist, and it cannot be denied that this off shoot is attached to the mainstream parent trunk of Hinduism just as Jainism is. The Sikhism offshoot has no connections with the Abrahamic religions because the fundamental concept is different from them, but is same as that of Hinduism as mentioned in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Therefore, the core principle of Sikhism is derived from the same Indovedic concept, and the movement to protect Dharma was a movement where the people who fought and died were sourced from the Hindus themselves, and not from Turks or Afghans.The bond between a Hindu and a Sikh are inseparable as they are sourced from a same genetic origin and have similar Indovedic core values.

(The writer is a Delhi-based doctor and a researcher of history of India, especially Punjab)




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