Sikh History: Vadda Ghalughaara

Vadda Ghalughaara

Vadda Ghalughara means the Great Holocaust. The word Holocaust came into existence during World War II when Hitler of Germany massacred six million European Jews. In Sikh history there have been three such incidences. First Holocaust known as Chotta Ghalughara happened in June 1746, when 10,000 Sikhs were killed. Second Ghalughara happened on February 5, 1762, when half of the Sikh population was wiped out. Some say it was 50, 000, whereas others say they were 30,000 as per Rattan Singh Bhangoo.

ਲੋਕ ਕਹੇਂ ਸਿੰਘ ਇਕ ਲੱਖ ਸਾਰਾ। ਪਚਾਸ ਬਚਯੋ ਔਰ ਸਭ ਗਯੋ ਮਾਰਾ ॥੧੪੩॥
ਪਿਤਾ ਹਮਾਰੇ ਤੀਸ ਬਤਾਏ । ਰਹੇ ਸੋ ਮਰ ਔਰ ਬਚ ਕਰ ਆਏ ॥ਪਿਤਾ ਚਾਚੇ ਦੁਇ ਹਮ ਥੇ ਸਾਥ, ਉਨ ਤੇ ਸੁਨ ਹਮ ਆਖੀ ਬਾਤ ॥੧੪੪॥

 The third Ghalughara was the greatest of all Ghalugharas that happened from June to November 1984 when 200,000 Sikhs were butchered to death. It was State terrorism unleashed upon the 2% population of India.

From 1748 to 1761 Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani) attacked Punjab five times. The fifth attack was on Marhattas, when he defeated them in the third battle of Panipat on January 14, 1761. He was returning to Afghanistan after appointing Khwaja Mirza Khan as Governor of Punjab in May, 1761. According to Browny, “His army was crossing river Satluj, when the Sikhs attacked them and snatched away most of the material wealth they took away from India. Sikhs followed Abdali up to Attuck and on their way back surrounded Lahore. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia came to know that Abdali has taken away 2200 young Hindu girls for his Harem, he followed him. His army took them away from him as soon as he saw them boarding the boats to cross Jehlum river. Jassa Singh took the responsibility of returning them to their parents in Maharashtra. Sikhs occupied Lahore and bestowed the title of Sultan-ul-Quaum upon Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. He issued coins in the name of the Guru with the inscription:

ਦੇਗ਼ੋ ਤੇਗ਼ੋ ਫ਼ਤਹ, ਨੁਸਰਤ ਬੇਦਰੰਗ, ਯਾਫ਼ਤ ਅਜ਼ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰੂ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ ॥

On October 27, 1761, the Diwali day, Sarbat Khalsa was held at Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, Amritsar in which a resolution to punish Aakal Dass of Jandiala and his associates, who were responsible for the following events, was passed :

  1. Getting Bhai Sukha Singh arrested and killed in 1753
  2. Attacking the village Meeran Kot and getting the family of Bhai Mehtab Singh killed
  3. Getting Bhai Taru Singh arrested and killed in the year 1745

Aakal Dass made Abdali aware of the activities & power of Sikhs and requested him to protect him. Abdali was so mad at the Sikhs that he made a vow to finish them from the face of earth. It was similar to the order of Bahadur Shah of December 10, 1710.

ਨਾਨਕਪ੍ਰਸਤਾਂ ਰਾ ਹਰ ਕੁਜਾ ਕਿ ਬਿਆਬੰਦ ਬਕਤੱਲ ਰਸਾਨੰਦ ॥

Sikhs, not only defeated Khwaja Mirza Khan, the Governor of Punjab but also killed him in the battlefield. Abdali immediately sent General Nurudin Bamzai to Punjab. He barely crossed the river Chenab when the Sikhs under Charhat Singh Sukarchakia attacked him. Nurudin ran away and took shelter in the Sialkot Fort. Sikhs surrounded the Fort, Nuruddin slipped away at night in the valleys of Jammu and the Afghan army surrendered to the Sikhs. When the new Governor Ubaid Khan of Lahore heard about this, he attacked the Sikhs. Sikhs in his army joined their Sikh brothers and left the Lahore Army. Ubaid Khan ran away after leaving all his artillery and weapons.

In the month of January of 1762 Sikhs surrounded Jandiala, the town of Aakal Dass. He appealed to Abdali to rescue him. The ruler of Sirhind Zain Khan assured Abdali that his army will not let the Sikhs advance any further until the time of his arrival. Zain Khan was joined with the Nawab of Malerkotla, Bheekhan Khan. Sikhs were planning to drop their children, women and elders at a safe place before facing the enemy in the battlefield when the news came that Abdali reached Lahore with his army on February 3, 1762. Sikhs were not expecting Abdali’s arrival from Afghanistan so soon. Upon hearing this news, Sikhs decided to move forward while protecting their children, women and elders. The battlefield warmed up on the morning of February 5, 1762. Zain Khan’s army consisted of 20,000 men which was joined by Abdali’s army consisting of 30,000 horsemen. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Sardar Charat Singh Sukarchakia commanded the Sikhs to encircle the elders, women and children and moved forward towards Barnala in a circular motion while protecting them exactly in the same manner as the hen protects its off springs.

ਤੁਰ ਤੁਰ ਲਰੋ ਔ ਲਰ ਲਰ ਤੁਰੋ, ਵਹੀਰ ਬਚਾਵਨ ਖਾਤਰ ਅੜੋ ॥੫੩॥
ਜਿਮ ਕਰ ਕੁਕੜੀ ਬਚਿਅਨ ਛਪਾਵੈ, ਫਿਲਾਇ ਪੰਖ ਦੁਇ ਤਰਫ਼ ਰਖਾਵੈ ॥
ਇਮ ਖ਼ਾਲਸੇ ਨੇ ਬਹੀਰ ਛਪਾਯੋ, ਜੋ ਬਚ ਰਹਯੋ ਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਲਗਾਯੋ ॥੧੨੪॥

At this point Sikhs were at Kupp-Raheerha that was hardly 7 miles away from Malerkotla. Armymen on both sides were extremely thirsty and very tired. Sikhs reached Barnala that evening whereas the Abdali’s army was in a hurry to go back.

ਘੋੜੇ ਮਰਦ ਪਿਆਸੇ ਭਏ, ਸਬਹਨ ਕੇ ਮੁਖ ਸੂਕ ਸੁ ਗਏ ॥
ਰਸਤੇ ਮੇਂ ਜਲ ਹੱਥ ਨ ਆਯੋ, ਜੋ ਆਯੋ ਤੋ ਪੀਅਨ ਕਬ ਪਾਯੋ ॥੧੩੩॥

In a history book written in Persian language – Kissa-e-Thamas-e-Maskeen, Thumas Khan talks about the bravery and high spirit of the Sikhs and predicts a Sikh Raj soon. His estimate was 25,000 Sikhs gave their lives whereas Rattan Singh Bhangoo’s father Bhai Mehtab Singh’s estimate was 30,000. It is said that half of the Sikh population got wiped out. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Sardar Charat Singh Sukarchakia, who commanded the Sikhs had suffered 22 and 19 wounds respectively. In this Ghalughara Sikhs lost Sri Guru Granth Sahib scribed by Bhai Mani Singh and dictated by Guru Gobind Singh jee although its copies were available everywhere.

Hardly four months have passed when Sikhs attacked Sirhind and occupied Lahore by July 1762.