Saturday, 22 December 2007

The Heroes Of Chamkaur - 40 Sikhs vs the Imperial Army

Living in Western Society we are always hearing about heroic acts of western heroes. One such act, regarded by many historians as the greatest of all last stands is the battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Greek Spartans took on the might of Xerses and his Persian army. Truly this was a great heroic battle, and we should remember the sacrifice of those 300 Spartans. However, we as Sikhs should try and also educate the world on the heroic deeds of our ancestors and forefathers. As these deeds were no less amazing and astounding than those displayed by the Spartans. It is our great mis fortune that not many westerners have come across any detailed accounts of Sikh bravery.

With my limited knowledge i'm going to try and re tell, what in my eyes was the greatest last stand of all - CHAMKAUR.....

bwbwxIAw khwxIAw puq spuq kryin ]
baabaaneeaa kehaaneeaa puth saputh karaen ||
The stories of one's ancestors make the children good children.

Setting the scene

On an earlier post i've mentioned about the Guru and his followers evacuating the fort at Anandpur, and how the enemy had forgotten all their oaths and promises, and started to pursue the Sikhs as they tried to cross the Sirsa river. My earlier post followed Mata Gujri and the younger Sahibzaadey to Gangu's village kheri. This Sakhi will follow what happened to the 40 Sikhs including Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

Chamkaur Sahib

On 20 December 1704 Guru Sahib and the 40 Singhs camped in an open space in Ropar. Bhai Budhi Chand who owned a Haveli (open house) in the town of Chamkaur visited Guru Sahib and offered his home and family at the feet of the Guru. Guru Sahib had once visited the mud-house of Bhai Budhi Chand when returning from Kurekshetr. Guru Sahib and the 40 Singhs moved into house of Bhai Budhi Chand situated on a hill, which now became the mud-fort of Guru Sahib.

Declaration Of War

At the commencement of Amritvela (early hours of the day before sunrise) Guru Sahib woke up Bhai Sangat Singh. "Wake up Sangat Singh, its time for Asa di Var. Let's do Kirtan" Guru said. What an amazing warrior Guru was! An army of 10 Lacks are pursuing Guru Sahib and planning to attack the place where they are staying, and Guru Sahib is still blissfully continuing his routine Rehat of Nitnem and Aas di Var Kirtan with all Singhs joining in. Nawab Wazir Khan, announced outside the fort of Chamkaur, "Gobind Singh! If you and your Sikhs come out now, you will be spared!" Guru Sahib replied to this with rain of arrows. There was silence now in the cold morning. Clouds filled the sky followed by thunder and lightening. Guru and the Singhs became ready for the battle.

There was a chill in the air and morning had not yet come. A Mughal messenger came to see Guru Sahib to negotiate with the Sikhs. However, Guru Sahib told the messenger to go away or face death. Inside the four walls of the mud-house Guru Sahib declared war.

The Battle Begins

The two Sahibzadas - Baba Ajit Singh and Baba Jujhar Singh - and three other archers took up positions, along with Guru Gobind Singh Ji in the upper portion of the house. Eight persons each were deputed to guard each of the four sides. Two expert swordsmen -Bhai Madan Singh and Bhai Kotha Singh - stood to guard the only entrance to the haveli.
The arrows from upper storey of the haveli kept many a soldier at bay. Those who came forward to storm the garhi, met piercing arrows. They either perished or preferred to pull back, or faced hand-to-hand fights with Singhs guarding the four sides. Faujdar Nahar Khan was one of those who fell to the arrows of Guru Gobind Singh himself. The onslaught continued relentlessly as the enemy continually attacked all sides of the gahri.

The battle lasted all day. When the ammunition and arrows in the garhi almost ran out, the Singhs came out in batches of five, with swords and spears in their hands, to face the enemy that far outnumbered them. Their determination and fighting skill helped them kill many of the enemy, but odds were so heavy against them that they all fell in the field, one by one. They were followed by the next batch of five, charged with emotions of fighting a treacherous enemy. Determined to fight with all their vigor, they too were to lay their lives the same way.

Ajit Singh Ji and Jhujhar Singh Ji attain martyrdom

"Pita ji (dear father), permit me to go and fight on the battleground and grace me with the opportunity to make my life fruitful and worthy in service of the panth."

Guru Gobind Singh hugged his beloved son and gave him a Shastr (weapon). Little beard or moustache had yet not grown on Baba Ajit Singh 's face, showing how young he was. Every father wants to see their child get married, but this was the time of fighting the enemy and defending the path of righteousness. Death was waiting and today Baba Ajit Singh would be marrying death.

The sun was about to rise. Guru saw that Nawab Wazir Khan wanted to take hold of the fort of Chamkaur in one attempt. The Nawab surrounded the fort with his armies. At this time the Singhs did a benti (request) to Guru Sahib that since there was no means of escaping the siege, he should escape with the Sahibzade. However Guru Sahib told them that there is no difference between the Singhs and the Sahibzade. "You are all mine! We will be victorious and we will all be free."

Baba Ajit Singh boldly and valiantly came out of fort, accompanied with 5 other Singhs, which included one of the original Panj Piarey, Bhai Mohkam Singh. Guru watched the battle scene from the top of the fort. There was silence on all four sides. As they came into the battleground they roared Jaikarey, which sounded everywhere like the roar of a lion. Today the 5 Singhs felt proud that under the leadership of Baba Ajit Singh , they had been blessed with an opportunity to fight on the side of the truth and the correct path of Guru Nanak. Baba Ajit Singh with the five Sikhs advanced swiftly on to the battlefield displaying weaponry skills, great courage and bravery. The enemy was immediately repulsed back and many of the treacherous and deceitful soldiers in the Mughal and Hill forces were slaughtered. Such was the fury of the Sikh contingent and the dedicated, continuous and precise support from the mud-fort that this small Sikh party of 6 brave bahadurs of the Khalsa force eliminated hundreds of brave enemy soldiers.

The enemy in one section was completely paralysed and disabled by the enormous strength and sudden impact of the Khalsa unit. With protection fire from the fort, which kept the surrounding army units in check and blocked their involvement in the battle on the ground. After killing many hundreds of the enemy, the group began to take casualties. Slowly the impact of the unit began to diminished and after almost an hour, the enemy began surrounding the Sahibzada from all four sides. Baba Ajit Singh called out, "Come nearer if you have courage." The soldiers ran away frightened. Slowly, they began coming back in a larger group as not a single one of them had the courage to individually fight Baba Ajit Singh ji.

The Singhs' weaponry skill on the battlefield reminded the Mughal soldiers of Allah, and they feared for their lives. While fighting, Baba Ajit Singh's kirpan (sword) broke. He then began to fight with a Neja (spear). However, while killing one Mughal chief, it became stuck in his chest. Even then, Baba Ajit Singh remained in bliss and peace. While fighting, however, one by one the 5 Singhs were overcome and lost their life and became Shaheed (martyrs) of the Guru. One Mughal chief injured Baba 's horse.

As a result, Baba ji fought from the ground with his talwar (sword). With each blow of the sword, he split the enemy into two. When he struck the enemy twice with his sword, they got cut up into four pieces. Now as the army surrounded the sahibzada, Guru watched with keen interest to see how bravely his son would live his last few minutes of life. When Baba attained Shaheedi, Guru Sahib roared a Jaikara of "Sat Siri Akal" full of emotions and courage - a salutation to the Almighty for the blessing of such a brave son.

Having seen the valour displayed by his older brother, Baba Jhujhar Singh Ji (15 years old) also had a desire to follow in his brothers footsteps. He Approached Guru Ji "Permit me, dear father, to go where my brother has gone. Don't say that I am too young. I am your son. I am a Singh, a Lion, of yours. I shall prove worthy of you. I shall die fighting, with my face towards the enemy, with the Naam on my lips and the Guru in my heart."

Guru Gobind Singh embraced him and said, "Go my son and wed the life-giving bride, Death. May the Almighty be with you always"

Guru Sahib gave blessings to Baba Jujhar Singh just like a father gives blessings to the bride on the day of her marriage. Guru added, "I asked my father to give his life for "dharam" (righteousness and justice). Today, what I told my father, I now tell you son." Bhai Himmat Singh and Bhai Sahib Singh (two of the original Panj Piarey) along with 3 other Singhs accompanied Sahibzada Baba Jujhar Singh . The Mughals were shocked at what they saw. It looked as if Ajit Singh had come back.

kbIrw mrqw mrqw jgu muAw mir iB n jwnY koie ]
kabeeraa marathaa marathaa jag muaa mar bh n jaanai koe ||
Kabeer, the world is dying - dying to death, but no one knows how to
truly die.

AYsI mrnI jo mrY bhuir n mrnw hoie ]1]
aisee maranee jo marai bahur n maranaa hoe ||1||
Whoever dies, let him die such a death, that he does not have to die
again. ||1||

Dead bodies lay everywhere. Baba Jujhar Singh chose to attack another section of the enemy. He had observed the enemy and chose to attack the section who were showing more aggression against the Sikhs in the mud-fort then the rest of the enemy. Initially, the enemy did not have any courage to formulate an attack against this second unit after the fury of the force displayed by Ajit Singh's unit.

To them this appeared like a repeat of the same disaster that had befallen them an hour or so ago. They had not even had time to recover from the previous shock and now they had a second wave of the same enormously vibrant energy. This time the enemy was driven even further back; many just took flight as they thought that the Sikh numbers must have increased and so many of the enemy disserted the battlefield. This new force of six Khalsas soldiers killed many hundreds of the enemy; many simply ran away.

The enemy were stunned by the heavy force and thrust of this second attack and had little choice but to retreat back. The Khalsa unit created a huge void in the enemy territory and a small circle of about 35 metres within the enemy ground was under the control of the Sikhs. No one had the courage to enter into this circle of control. Anyone who entered this area of command was immediately challenged and quickly extinguished. The Khalsa unit, with their backs to the centre of this circular area attacked the enemy courageously and with vigour at the perimeter of the controlled region.

The Guru watched this development with pride and gratefulness to the Almighty and he knew that the Sikhs had learned the lessons of warfare well and would soon join the many hundreds of Sikh martyrs who had attained the highest honour of Dharam. The Almighty had indeed blessed the Sahibzade and the Sikhs with true bravery and deepest understanding of the Guru's message.

Slowly, due to the huge number of the enemy, they eventually assembled around Baba Jujhar Singh. He was now surrounded and had a Neja (spear) in his hand. Wherever the Neja hit, the enemy was destroyed. He also used a Khanda (double-sword), with which he killed the enemy as a farmer mows down his crop. Guru saw that Jujhar Singh was being surrounded and the opportunity to kill the Mughal soldiers was decreasing.

So Guru Sahib fired volleys of arrows in the area around the Sahibzada giving 'protection fire' to the Sikh soldiers. Baba Jujhar Singh eventually was able to break the ring of the Mughal army soldiers surrounding him. However, due to the huge number of enemy soldiers, Baba eventually attained Shaheedi but died a hero's death in the fight against tyranny and falsehood.

sUrw so pihcwnIAY ju lrY dIn ky hyq ]
sooraa so pehichaaneeai jo larai dheen kae haeth ||
He alone is known as a spiritual hero, who fights in defense of religion.

purjw purjw kit mrY kbhU n CwfY Kyqu ]2]2]
purajaa purajaa katt marai kabehoo n shhaaddai khaeth ||2||2||
He may be cut apart, piece by piece, but he never leaves the field of battle. ||2||2||

The Guru thanked the Almighty, that his children attained martyrdom before his own eyes. They gave their lives so that other children could live in peace and freedom from oppression by the state.

Each Sikh went into battle with such ferocity, like a hungry lion scattering its prey that it unnerved the enemy, but the hordes overwhelmed them and they fought to the last breath. Such heroics have seldom been seen before or since. This situation brought true the prophecy of one of Guru Sahib Ji’s compositions :

svw lwK sy eyk lVwaUN ]

qbY goibMd isMG nwm khwaUN ]

"Call me Gobind Singh, only, when each of my Sikh will fight with more than one and a quarter lakh of enemy."

Vacating the Fort

By the nightfall, only six persons - Guru Gobind Singh Ji, two of the " Beloved Five" (Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh), Bhai Sant Singh, Bhai Man Singh and Sangat Singh remained alive in the garhi. The Singhs decided that Guru Gobind Singh must leave the haveli, so that he could rally his followers again. If he perished, loss to the community would be irreparable. Guru Ji wanted to face the enemy but the five Sikhs in the form of Panj Piyaray said that Guru Ji must do as they say, to which Guru Sahib Ji relented. It was proposed that Guru Sahib Ji should change his attire with Sangat Singh, who somewhat resembled him in stature. By his being visible, the others might get enough time to reach a somewhat safe distance. Reluctantly, the Guru agreed, to the propsal, which the Singhs presented as the matta of five, which was binding. . Bhai Sant Singh decided to stay back to guard the entrance, and thus gain some additional time, when the enemy barges in.

In the middle of the night Guru Gobind Singh and three remaining Sikhs - Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh and Bhai Man Singh - left the haveli, with a plan to go in different directions but meet in a garden outside Machhivara. Even at this critical moment Guru Ji was fearless and full of valor, clapping loudly three times and shouting “here goes the Guru of the Sikhs, face me now if you have the courage” and set off into the enemy hordes. Fighting their way through the enemy ranks Guru Ji made it out and headed towards Machiwara.

DMn auh DrqI DMn auh bwpU, DMn vfBwgI mweI [

dhan oh dharti, dhan oh bapu, dhan vadhbhaghi maaei.

"Blessed is that land, blessed is that father, blessed is the great mother.

FMg ijaux dw ijsdw pu`qr, d`s igAw sdIAw sweIN [

dhangh jeeon da jisda puttar, das giya sadiya saee(n).

Whose son has shown the way to live, for centuries to come."

This whole incident is referred to in the historical document called Zafarnama, penned by Guru Gobind Singh himself. Below are some excerpts from this document reffering to the battle of Chamkaur:

How could forty famished persons fight in the battlefield, on whom ten lakh soldiers made a sudden attack.19.
Your army breaking the oath and in great haste plunged in the battlefield with arrows and guns.20.
For this reason, I had to intervene and had to come fully armed.21.
When all other methods fail, it is proper to hold the sword in hand.22.
I have no faith in your oaths on the Quran, otherwise I had nothing to do with this battle.23.
I do not know that your officers are deceitful, otherwise I would not have followed this path.24.
It is not appropriated to imprison and kill those, who put faith on the oaths of Quran.25.

The soldiers of your army, clad in black uniforms, rushed like flies on my men.26.
Whosoever from them came near the wall of the fort, with one arrow he was drenched in his own blood.27.
None dared to come there near the wall; none faced then the arrows and destruction.28.
When I saw Nahar Khan in the battlefield, he was greeted with one of my arrows.29.
All those boasters who came near the wall, they were dispatched in no time.30.
Another Afghan, with a bow and arrow came in the battlefield like a flood.31.
He shot arrows heroically, sometimes in senses and sometimes in madness.32.
He made several attacks and was drenched with last.33.
Khwaja Mardud hid himself behind the wall; he did not enter the field like a brave warrior.34.
If I had seen his face once, one of my arrows would have dispatched him to the abode of death.35.
Many warriors wounded with arrows and bullets died in the battle on both the sides.36.
The darts were showered so violently, that the field became red like popyflowers.37.
The heads and limbs of the dead were scattered in the field like the balls and sticks in the game of Polo.38.
When the arrows hissed and bows tinkled, there was a great hue and cry in the world.39.
There the spears and lances provided a dreadful sound and the warriors lost heir senses.40.
How could bravery ultimately withstand in the field, when only forty were surrounded by innumerable warriors?41.
When the lamp of the world veiled itself, the moon shone in brightness during the night.42.
He, who puts faith on the oaths of the Quran, the Ture Lord gives him the guidance.43.
There was neither any harm nor injury; my Lord, the vanquisher of the enemies, brought me to safety.44


Conqueror of the world said...

I'm not sure if I am getting my battles mixed up, but I think the enemy had 1 million in there ranks, making this the greatest act of bravery in world history.

Mr. Singh said...

i think the figure Quoted by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in his zafarnaama is 10 lakh, which is 1 million i think if a lakh is 100,000. Hopefully someone can shed some light on that...

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.