First Battle of Lohgarh 1710 to 1712

Misreported in history, during their regime of 246 years, the battle of Lohgarh is one of the largest and longest expeditions undertaken by the Mughals against any opponent (and after the battles of Lohgarh, the Mughal Empire began declining).

Emperor Bahadur Shah reached Lohgarh with four princes (Prince Rafi-us-Shah, Prince Azimushan, Prince Jahandar Shah and Prince Khuzishta), more than fifty high-rank mansabdars (haning mansabs of 1000 or above) and more than one hundred low-rank nobility and a mammoth army of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Besides, the army of allied Hindu Rajas like Chhatrasal Bundela and Churimani Jat (and later Raja Jai Singh Swai of Jaipur, Raja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur, Raja Amar Singh of Ajmer) were also invited by the Emperor to fight against Banda Singh Bahadur. The Mughal army used extremely heavy artillery to control the Sikhs. Elephants were widely used for lifting and pushing the artillery to Lohgarh. The Mughal cavalrymen mainly depended upon the short arms (kotah-yaraq) for close quarter combat at Lohgarh. They were classified into five categories: swords and shields, maces, battle-axes, spears and daggers. Weapons used for long range attacks were the bows and arrows (kaman and tir), the matchlock (bandooq/tufang) and the pistols. Rockets were also used by the artillerymen in the battle. Similarly, camel artillery men (zumbouruckchee), a piece of ordinance of small calibre, too were intensively used against Sikhs.

On 29 November 1710, the imperial troops, under the Prince Jahandar Shah, reached the foot of the hills and Fort of Lohgarh was closely investigated by large Mughal troops.[1]  Prince Jahandar Shah got prepared the map of Lohgarh (also known as Dabar).[2] It took a lot of time to prepare the map of Lohgarh and its 52 Fortresses. In fact, the Mughals were unaware of this Fort. Such a resistance and Fortification had never been faced by the imperial forces; hence the Mughals failed to prepare the plan for capturing such a huge Fortification which was spread in hundreds of miles; hence it demoralized of the Mughal generals and the Emperor.

In the month of January 1711, the Emperor planned to siege the area between Markanda to Yamuna, and he divided his army into six groups; but, the Mughal army had no clue how to break the web of 52 bastions built on the way to Lohgarh. Experienced generals of the Mughal army failed to perform in these difficult conditions as the preparation and principles of war adopted by Sikh army were very complicated and invincible. No siezure plan could be prepared; in fact, the map prepared by the Prince was inaccurate, as it was only confined to the situation of the first hill of Lohgarh Fort. The Sikhs had established chowkies/thanas (posts) and Fortification right from river Beas to Bareilly; and, they operated all this in a co-ordinated manner by providing reinforcement to one and another.  High contours of the Shivalik hills were chosen for the construction of ramparts  and the  hill chieftains of Nalagarh, Nahan, Garhwal, Jammu, Chamba, Nurpur etc.

The Mughal army remained stationed near Lohgarh while other contingents of the Sikhs continued to make parallel attacks on most of the parganas of the provinces of Lahore and Delhi. The Mughal army was only trying to capture Lohgarh, situated in the present district of Yamuna Nagar, but the Sikhs had established bastions/Fortresses everywhere in the present districts of Ambala and Panchkula (of these Fortresses and bastions, the Mansoorpur & Bavana Fortresses of the Sikhs still exist).  The battle-field, which was on the south side of Fort of Lohgarh, had undulated contours; and, the cover of dense forest over; and, on the passage leading to Lohgarh Fort, 52 Fortresses, had been built on which muskets and rahkalas had been installed. Due to this, even, the siezure of Sadhaura was not possible for the Mughals; and what to talk about Lohgarh. The Mughals failed to execute their important strategy of siezure of Lohgarh. The strategy of checking supplies of the Sikhs could not be implemented in such a vast area. The Sikh army had regular supplies of the required goods; therefore the question of the Sikh army’s surrender before the Mughal army at Lohgarh never arose. There was ample amount of amenities and food grains stuff in the Lohgarh Fort and in the depots, which had been established long back in anticipation of big war. Moreover, there was a continuous supply of required materials through the secret route to Lohgarh from the northern side of the Fort. It can be safety presumed that during the construction of Fort Lohgarh, the Sikh Gurus and Bhai Lakhi Rai Vanjara had kept in mind the siezure strategy of the Mughal warfare. Despite being large in number, the Mughal Army had no planning and strategy to attack the Sikh forces and their defences. In this dense forest area, it was very difficult to advance, and, moreover, the Sikhs were good guerrilla fighters and even nature gave advantage to the Sikh forces which rendered the world’s strongest force of that time helpless. The Mughal Emperor failed to understand the situation and gradually started losing his confidence.


The royal army, under the command of Firoz Khan Mewati and Rustam Dil Khan moved towards Sadhaura and surrounded the Fort. On the 24th of November, a fierce battle was fought outside the Fort between the Sikhs and the royal forces.


According to Kamvar Khan, who claimed having seen the battle with his own eyes: “This humble man was present in the army units of prince Rafiushan. I Saw with my own eyes: From among those wicked people, each one would jump in the field and fight with the royal forces; and after attempting show of great bravery, would become a good (would die) of the merciless sword of the holy warriors. At this time the royal army and the armies of the famous umraa attacked them from all sides and surpassed the acts (of bravery) of Rustam and Isfandyaar (the two warriors who fought so bravely that they are quoted as the greatest fighters in the history). About two and a half thousand persons of that unprincipled occult (Sikhs), along with their leaders became food of the swords of the brave men (Muslims). Among the victorious forces nephew of Firoz Shah Mewati was killed and his (Mewati’s) son was wounded”

At that time, the Emperor had divided all his army into six divisions: Prince Rafiushan had the command of thirty-one thousand soldiers; he was assisted by Bakhshi-ul-Mulk Zulfiqar Khan. The other three princes had eleven thousand soldiers each; Khan Khana Munaim Khan too had eleven thousand soldiers; the sixth division, comprising of seven thousand soldiers, was under the command of Mahabat Khan (son of Khan Khanan).[3] The forces of Hindu Rajas, under the command of Chhatarsal Bundela and Udit Singh Bundela, too had joined the royal troops. So, it was an army of more than one hundred thousand strong which marched towards Lohgarh.[4]

Here he asked Rustam Dil Khan and Rafi-us-Shan to get information about the details of the Fortification of Lohgarh. According to Muhammed Qasim Aurangabadi Banda Singh had about one and a half hundred thousand, and, almost same was the number of the soldiers of the Mughal army. Here, Bahadur Shah received information that a very large number of the soldiers of the Mughal army had been killed in the battles against the Sikhs. The Emperor was also told that Banda Singh was a “very powerful magician. He could turn a bullet from its course and could work such spell that spears and swords had little effect upon his followers, ”This disheartened and frightened the Emperor and he issued instructions that no Hindu should be allowed to enter the area around his camp. He was so scared of the Sikhs that he commanded that even Hindu generals, who were a part of his own army, who had always been loyal to him, should not be allowed to come near him. So much so that, now, he was afraid of his own loyal Mughal soldiers. He decided to keep himself away from the battle zone and moved his camp near Qaimpur village, i.e. 12 kos (about 38 kilometres) away from Lohgarh. Hadi Kamvar Khan, who was accompanying the royal caravan, writes:[5]“I saw that the camel-riding Rajput soldiers were present in the whole area. Thousands of them were there, but the Emperor was accompanied by just four sons and a few courtiers only.” It means that the Rajput rulers were fully ready to react to any untoward incident, and, had Bahadur Shah taken any wrong step, he too would have been eliminated. Certainly the Mughals were demoralized, because of heavy casualties inflicted from the hands of the Sikhs. Banda Singh Bahadur, accompanied by Sikh soldiers, was highly motivated to fight and resist the Mughals. Coming out of the 52 Fortresses with great, enthusiastic and inclination, they raised the cry of “ Fateh Darshan” and “ Sachcha Padshah” and threw themselves upon the fire of artillery of Mughals and frightened them. They launched rank-shaking assaults of the imperial entrenchment, and every day many were killed. A large number of soldiers from both sides were killed daily.

An Imperial officer, Mirza Rukn, came from the van and reported that fighting and killing of the Mughals was going on at the passages leading to the satellite Fortress of Lohgarh.  Rustam Dil Khan Bahadur on reaching a Fortress called Sudhawala surrounded it, believing that Banda was inside that building. But the information was wrong as Banda Singh Bahadur was sitting under that tent on that hillock and from there he was watching the actions of his devoted followers. No General of the Mughals could reach near Banda Singh, as he was so swift and moved from one satellite Fortress to another like a light. He was himself monitoring some weak defenses of the Sikhs and accordingly providing them the reinforcement.

The Mughal mansabdars, along with their army tried to move forward between the web of 52 Fortresses of, that had been established by the Sikhs on the passages leading to Khalsa Rajdhani. The Sikhs launched attacks from each Fortress and a fierce battle with cannon and musket took place at regular interval of time, The Sikh soldiers were not bothered by the mighty enemy; with their chivalrous spirit they brought down large Mughal army under the range of their attack. The Sikhs had great advantages of being at higher contours; and they  used arrows and musket fire against the Mughals from high ramparts. From the flashing of swords and spears, many of the Mughals died from sword thrusts of the Sikh soldiers. Khan-i-Khanan tried to advance near the Fortress, but did not dare much to achieve the objective. The imperial soldiers were somehow trying to fight against Sikhs, but Mughal Generals were cowards and were trying to save their lives. Much endeavour and efFort was put in from both sides in which the ‘trade of giving and taking life’ came briskly. By that time, the Imperial forces, crossing over the plain ground, reached to a distance of a quarter KOs from the wall of the advance Fortress of Lohgarh.  Cannon balls, regularly fired from the top of the bastions, were falling on the Imperial army and it killed a large number of Mughal soldiers. Amini’l Umara Bahadur Nusrat Jang never went close to Lohgarh and kept on sending the message to the Emperor from his tent. The Emperor was stationed at Ugala village near Shahbad and was daily monitoring the warfare from quite a far and safe place. This process continued for a month and daily hundreds of Mughal soldiers were being killed at the hands of the Sikhs. There was not even a minor achievement on the side of the Mughal army.

Irvine writes, “The Mughal and Pathan soldiers were very much scared due to the rumours about Banda Singh. They had heard that Banda Singh had magical power with which he could make the spears and swords of the enemy ineffective. They had learnt that Banda Singh had given a ‘blessing’ to the Sikhs that if anyone of them died in the battle, he would be reborn and would get a higher office in life. Due to such rumours the Emperor and the senior generals of the Mughal army had become perplexed and disheartened.”

After such a long expedition against the Sikhs at Lohgarh, the Emperor Bahadur Shah realized that capturing of the invincible Fort of Lohgarh was impossible and the only possibility of capturing the Fort was to capture the leader of the Sikhs- Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. After this, the Emperor spent most of his energy, resources and power only to capture Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. According to the Mughal chronicles, in May-June 1711, the Mughal army engaged the Sikhs in pitch battles for a couple of times, but, in spite of inflicting heavy casualties on the Sikhs, it failed to apprehend the Sikh leader (Banda Singh).  There was a huge difference between two leaders, i.e. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and Emperor Bahadur Shah; the Sikh leader was himself participating in the battles and kept the morale of the Sikhs soldiers high, but the Emperor had been watching the battle from a distance of more than 35 kilometers. Moreover Banda Singh’s knowledge of warfare and strategy building was unmatched. The Sikh General (Banda) was in the late thirties and Emperor was 65 years old. After some time Banda Singh realized that the Emperor was a coward and does not want himself to lead the expedition from the front and remained stationed at a safe point near Shahbad. A very large number of soldiers remained with the Emperor Bahadur Shah, to protect him. The Emperor encamped at Ugala village of Shahbad Pargana.  After seeing the high causalities of Mughal army the Bahadur Shah got frightened and he ordered that no Hindu, including those Hindu Rajas who were fighting alongside him, was allowed to enter the Imperial tent. The level of insecurity increased to the highest level and the Emperor stopped trusting his loyal soldiers.

The supplies of the Mughal army started getting affected, during this long war, as the Imperials had deployed large army troops for submerging the Sikhs. They needed a lot of food grains, medical facilities, arms/ammunition and horses to deal with the Sikh army. The supplier/traders of the Mughals army were mainly the Vanjaras, and the Vanjaras were helping the opponents of the Mughals army i.e. the Sikh army. They didn’t only supply food grains and other essential goods, but also supplied arms and ammunitions, or whatsoever was the requirement of the Sikh army.

In the guerrilla warfare, the Sikh army was very expert. They were always first to attack the enemy. Their attack was sudden and speedy. They attacked like a leopard and ran too, like a leopard. They never passed through the straight ways. They moved on the arduous wild routes by concealing themselves like leopards. When the enemy came under their blow they pounced upon them. The author of Asrar-I-Samadi, a contemporary writer, describes the movement of Banda Singh Bahadur and his Khalsa colleagues like that of lions and leopards. According to him, “Lion-like they sprang upon the backs of the elephants, and flung on the ground those who were seated in the hawdas. Like leopards they would reach such places, where even the fastest horses would be reluctant to proceed.”  The Mughal army made attacks in the day light and the Sikh forces defended the attack. The attack of the Mughal forces was of poor quality, since the natural terrain advantage was on the side of Sikhs. The Sikhs were fully trained to fight in dense jungle and on undulated land. And on the other hand Mughals were new to the conditions and therefore, suffered heavy casualties. The Sikh soldiers were expert in guerrilla fighting and used to attack the Mughal army in the dark, due to which there were heavy losses on the side of the Imperial troops. The Sikhs never allowed the enemy to settle down and secure their position even in the nights. At the hillocks, light towers were established at various points. On these light towers a pool was established in which cotton seeds could be filled and these emitted light gradually resulting in sufficient light to guide the Sikh soldiers, who were making guerrilla attacks on the Mughal camps. After plundering the Mughal camps in the night, these light towers guided the Sikhs Soldiers to retreat back to their respective defense post. According to Muhammed Qasim Aurangabadi, “Khan Khanan and the Mughal prince were of the opinion that the occupation of the Fort will not be possible in less than one year.

Supplies to Sikh Army

Guru Har Rai Sahib, (1645-58 for 13 years), during his stay at Thapal, in Lohgarh zone, had constructed proper ration stores and stores for other goods required for the war. His imagination to originate plans and practical sense and energy to carry them through was remarkable.  He was observant, untiringly shrewd, kindly, a watchman, generous and conservative, while constructing the Lohgarh Fort. Guru Har Rai Sahib, had a real knowledge of humanity, the raw materials required for the construction of Lohgarh and most vital of all, of building the fighting pirit among the Sikhs, the will to win. More than the physical and moral make up, he nurtured the mental qualities among the Sikhs i.e. common sense, knowledge of what is and what is not possible. The real sound knowledge of the mechanism of war, i.e. topography, movement and supplies were well known to the Sikh army and this helped the Sikhs to face Mughals at Lohgarh.

The tanda (trade caravan) of Bhai Lakhi Rai Vanjara used to supply food grains and other trading materials and general carriers for the conflicting armies also. He enjoyed a sort of immunity (comparable to the present red cross) during the wars as his tanda was never attacked or harmed by the conflicting armies: whether Mughals, Rajputs or Marathas. These armies used to purchase grains, tents, weapons, horses, goats, sheep etc and his tanda also acted as transporter for shifting of camps. His tanda had a strong contingent of Forty to fifty thousand bullock carts and dogs to safeguard them. His tanda encamped for safety every evening in a regular square formed with the bags of the grains. The Vanjaras remained in the centre and the oxen were fastened outside. But in the case of Lohgarh, the Vanjaras not only supplied the materials and weapons to the Sikh army, but they also fought against the Mughals in front to uproot oppressions of imperialist regime.

The Vanjaras, the moving traders lead the Sikhs through the difficult routes in jungles. They were reported to have carried weapons along with the grains to the Sikh hide out in the hills. The Sikh army had no shortage of supplies of essential food grains and commodities because, having anticipated a  prolonged  war, they had accumulated everything long back at Fort Lohgarh in a well planned manner; whereas, on the other hand,  the supplies for Mughal army were badly affected as the Vanjaras, who use to supply the food grains and other items to them, withdrew their supplies and became Sikh warriors. The rise in the prices of the food grains had affected the Vanjaras and the people in the hills, therefore the Vanjaras were inclined towards Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.[1] Diwan Bhikhari Das to Maharaja Jai Singh, informs about the incessant rain, shortage of ration in the royal camp, large scale casualties of horses and beasts of burden; epidemic type situation on the battlefield[2].  These Vanjaras who were true the Sikhs and the Sikh movement in the Punjab, always tried to maintain the supply of provisions to the Sikhs even when they were besieged in the  Fort. The besieged threw of pieces of cloth from the top of the Fort wall and the Vanjaras packed the grain, tied them up and then through the ropes the same were drawn up and taken inside the Fort.[3] We may also presume that the inflated rates of ijara leading to the exorbitant rise in the prices of food grains hit both the Vanjaras and the people in the hills.

There are very significant entries in the Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla regarding these facts. We have, in the fifth year (1710) of Bahadur Shah’s reign, a report presented to him by Jagjiwan Dass, reads: “Some people purchased horses and ammunition to be delivered to the Sikh rebels, and they carried the same through the Kohistan (hills). If somebody obstructed them, they pretended that they were taking the same for the Zamindars of that district. The Emperor ordered the investigation and the necessary action

Water Management at Lohgarh and its Bastions

Water was the most important requirement during warfare and only source of water were wells and the wells were situated inside the Fortress of Sikhs, therefore Mughals soldiers had no access to water. The wells outside the Fortress were made poisonous, so that the Mughal army has no access to the water. The residence of the village in the neighborhood of Sadhaura left the place after throwing poison into the wells Bahadur Shah ordered that no one should use the water. Since each bastion was working in coordination with other, therefore any shortage of supply in any of the Fortress was immediately fulfilled for Sikhs. Dams were constructed at various points in hills and heavy precipitation in the area always kept these dams full with water. Well coordinated efFort of Sikh army, shocked the Mughal generals.

Attack on the Lohgarh Fort (as reported by historians)

Most of the historians have written that the Mughal army puts siege to the Lohgarh Fort on 30 November 1710 and captured it on 1st  December 1710, the very next day, and, Banda Singh Bahadur escaped from the Fort with a few of his companions through the hills of Nahan. Almost same or a like material is found in the works of almost all the historians. In fact, these historians have based their works on the writings of the Persian writers who had claimed that they had seen this battle with their own eyes; they (especially Khafi Khan and Kamvar Khan) claimed themselves to be eyewitnesses. Their narration of this battle as such:

On Wednesday, the 29th of November, 1710, the Emperor reached village Kampo, on the bank of river Som, a few furlongs away from Lohgarh. Having observed the situation, he ordered Khan Khanan and Mahabat Khan to assess the state of the trenches (posts) of the Sikhs in the hills. The same order was given to prince Rafiushan too. After assessing the whole situation, on the 30th of November, the royal forces surrounded the Lohgarh Fort in this manner:

(1). Rafiushan will take positions at about one km from the Fort, and, he will be assisted by Zulfiqar Khan.

(2). Khan Khanan Munaim Khan and his two sons, Bakhshi Mahabat Khan and Khan Zaman, will move from the hip of the hills.

(3). Chhatarsal Bundela[1] and Islam Khan Mir Aatish will be the advance party of Khan Khanan.

(4). Hamid-Ud-Din Khan, Azimushan Shah and their associates as well as the soldiers of Jahan Shah were to assist the three parties of the action.[2]

At the time of beseige, there were not many Sikhs in the Lohgarh Fort; nor they had enough ammunition or food for survival. They had just three cannons and had also made one improvised cannon of an imli (tamarind) tree. They did not have even enough gun powder for these cannons.

But, according to the account of Muhammed Qasim Aurangabadi: the next day the big pearl of the crown of the empire (prince) Rafi-ush-Shan and Wazir-UL-Mumalik Khan Khanan (Munaim Khan) were given command to put siege to the Fort. So, following the command, they organized the army and put siege to the Fort. The cheat (Banda Singh) became busy in strengthening the towers, outer wall, mounds and gates of his Fortress. The noble-born prince and Khan Khanan strengthened their trenches and became ready for battle. They began firing from cannons, guns and rockets. By God’s grace, one of the rockets fired by great honorable prince fell into the storage of explosives and that got fired. With this blunder of that unlucky person, countless persons  reached the hell. All the trenches, which were made of timber, were burnt. When the fire was extinguished, the honorable prince strengthened their foot on the foothills of the Fort. But now no voice could be heard from the Fort side. There were not more than one thousand young men in the Fort. As the awe of battle affected both the sides, the brave soldiers (of the Mughals) did not move forward and waited for the command of the prince, Khan Khanan’s wise advice. The opinion of the prince was that the knot would not be untied (occupation of the Fort would not be possible) in less than one year; i.e. this problem would not be solved in less than one year. Divine courage played its role and the long-term problem was solved in a moment. They thought that there was no necessity to make haste, the soldiers too were badly tired. So they decided to wait for some time. They thought if God willed, in the morning they would occupy the Fort in no time. They thought that if they attacked that day, he (Banda Singh) might escape through some other way and their efforts might go waste. They thought that the proper thing for them would be to make arrangements to block the path of his escape. If that unFortunate schemer (Banda Singh) ran away from there, he had two escape routes: one was through the territory of Burfi Raja (Nahan), and the other towards the Afghan border of the Afghan (Jammu). We should write to them that they should not allow him to cross their borders and they should block their passage. When all the sides were strengthening, an attack should be made and not a single person should be left alive, so that after that battle no person should dare to do such a silly act (of rebellion against the empire). That, it was a good advice that quite good number of soldiers should be left on trenches and others should go to the Capital (royal camp).

But, that Fort could not be captured according to their (prince and Khan Khanan’s) thinking. When the life of that ill-minded infidel was still to be spared (by God) for some more days, how could this advice become true? The great honourable prince returned to the capital (royal camp). In spite of his age (wisdom) Khan Khanan got deceived.

That clever person (Banda Singh) had left about two hundred men in the Fort and escaped through the territory of Barfi Raja (Nahan). Those unlucky persons whom he had left for the defense of the Fort were caught in the net of misery. The next morning the prince gave command to attack. Fearless soldiers used the stairs and climbed the walls of the Fort and entered the Fort, but they did not fight the defense of the Fort  had heard about the strong defense of the Fort, they did not find that there. Those of his soldiers who, confronted with swords were murdered immediately. Those who ran away, they were killed by people by throwing rocks at them. Thus the Fort came under the occupation of the glorious holy army. Everyone got a lot of commodities. For one week, the army men continued entering the hills in the form of groups and they killed whoever they came across. They plundered and brought a lot of goods to their homes (tents). They brought velvet, silk, clothes and other goods, besides slaves and women folk. Only lazy, the drunkard, the weak and powerless person did not go into the hills, hence they could not have anything from the Fort.[3]

Kamvar Khan, who claimed to have seen the battle with his own eyes says: “This humble man was present in the army units of prince Rafi-ush-Shan.  I saw with my own eyes: From among those wicked people, each one would jump in the field and fight with the royal forces; and after attempting a show of great bravery, would become a good (would die) of the merciless sword of the holy warriors. At this time the royal army and the armies of the famous umraa attacked them from all sides and surpassed the acts (of bravery) of Rustam and Isfandyaar.[4] About two and a half thousand persons of that unprincipled cult (Sikhs), along with their leaders became the god of the swords of the brave men (Muslims). Among the victorious forces nephew of Firoz Shah Mewati was killed and his (Mewati’s) son was wounded…” [5] (The non-Italic text is mine- Author).

Khafi Khan says, “It is difficult to narrate this battle. Faqir-like dressing Sikhs have created awe in the royal army. So many people of the royal army were killed that it seemed that we shall all die. In this Sikh attack, Firoz Khan Mewati’s nephew and son were also killed.” [6]

[1]Chhatarsal was in direct line of Raja Rudar Partap Dev. Rudar Partap’s grandson had murdered Abu Fazal, a minister of Akbar. Chhatarsal was the son of Champat Rai, fifth in direct line of Rudar Partap. In 1671, Chhatarsal, as a boy, was the chief of a small unit of just 25 horsemen. He worked hard and became a prominent fighter. Later, on the 21st of January 1714, Farrukhsiyar granted him a mansab of six thousand zaat and four thousand horsemen, a very high status for a non-Muslim. At the time of his death, he was the master of half of eastern Bundelkhand.

Lohgarh Fort falls (?) and Banda Singh escapes

Kamvar says: “When the sun has just arisen, Khan Khanan, with a force of five thousand companions, attacked the Sikh positions at the top of the hill. A fierce battle of guns and arrows was fought on both the sides. Khan Khanan reached near the trench of the Fort. Both sides fought a full-fledged battle. Trade of life-taking was at its full extreme.”[1]

Irvine writes, “The Mughal and Pathan soldiers were very much scared due to the rumours about Banda Singh. They had heard that Banda Singh had magical power with which he could make the spears and swords of the enemy ineffective. They had learnt that Banda Singh had given a ‘blessing’ to the Sikhs that if anyone of them died in the battle he would be reborn and would get a higher office in life. Due to such rumours the Emperor and the senior generals of the Mughal army had become perplexed and disheartened”.[2]

When Khan Khanan reached near the trench, there were small skirmishes. A couple of Sikhs would come out of the Fort, fight against the royal soldiers and get killed after a good deal of fighting; a large number of royal soldiers too were getting killed. [3]

Finding Khan Khanan resolute, prince Rafi-ud-Shah and Rustam Dil Khan too made an assault at Lohgarh Fort. They acted so with an intention of stopping Khan Khanan getting the credit/laurels of victory. The action of Khan Khanan, and others following him, was in violation of the orders of the Emperor because he (Emperor) had given instructions that the siege should be prolonged; and, when the ammunition and the ration of the Sikhs is exhausted, they will be captured. Now, when they had moved forward in violation of the orders of the Emperor, they had only one option, i.e., either capture the Fort or die; because a defeat would earn them the wrath of the Emperor along with punishment for disobeying his orders.

On the other hand, the Sikhs were firing from cannons after long intervals. This made the royal generals realise that the Sikhs did not have much gun powder; by the evening the Sikhs’ cannons stopped firing; they came out of their trenches and attacked the royal forces with swords. Several Sikhs were killed in this fighting.

At that time Banda Singh was sitting in Sitargarh Fort, on the top of another hill adjacent to Lohgarh hill. By this time, the royal forces had closely surrounded Lohgarh Fort and could enter it any time. The Sikhs had realised that they had no option except to die fighting or make an attempt to escape. So, at night, they filled all the gun powder in the improvised tamarind-stem cannon and fired it towards the royal army. It resulted into a great explosion which shook the earth. This frightened the royal forces and they hid themselves in their trenches. The Sikhs availed of the opportunity and fled towards the Shivalik hills; Banda Singh too was a part of this group which escaped.

The next morning, Udit Singh Bundela and Rustam Dil Khan made a major assault on the Fort and entered it without any major fighting; there they found not more than thirty Sikhs including Gulab Singh Bakhshi who was wearing Banda Singh’s clothes. Khafi Khan, commenting on the escape of Banda Singh and arrest of his look-like Gulab Singh, says: ‘the falcon had escaped and an owl had been captured.’[4]

When Bahadur Shah came to know that Banda Singh had escaped, he became very much angry and said: ‘How could a jackal escape from the siege of so many dogs? The Emperor was especially angry at Khan Khanan who had disobeyed the Emperor and attacked the Fort of his own.”[5]

But, Muhammed Qasim Aurangabadi gives another account. He says that after ‘capturing’ the Lohgarh Fort, the elder prince and Khan Khanan sent a messenger to deliver a letter to the Emperor about their victory; reading this the Emperor was elated and he made sajda (prostration to God in the direction of the Kaaba at Mecca) to thank God for that victory. But learning about the escape of Banda Singh, he began guessing as to from which side he had escaped. In the meanwhile the prince and Khan Khanan reached there and they narrated that Banda Singh had escaped through the territory of the Nahan ruler. At this, the Emperor ordered summoning of the ruler of Nahan in his court. Accordig to Muhammed Qasim Aurangabadi, the Emperor did not become angry with Munaim Khan (Khan Khanan).[6] It is possible that Muhammed Qasim Aurangabadi had soft corner for Khan Khanan.

Earlier, when the news of the entry of the royal forces into the Fort had reached the Emperor, he had ordered beating of drums, and, all his soldiers were dancing. But, when he came to know about the escape of Banda Singh, he stopped all jubilations and became sorrowful. He was not happy even at the capture of the Fort or the killings of the Sikh soldiers whose number was about 1500.[7]

When the Fort had been occupied by the royal forces, a very large number of soldiers rushed towards it. Kamvar, who was present there, reports:

We deliberated and entered the Fort. We observed the looting by the soldiers. Scoundrel and high-handed Afghan and Baloch soldiers were scuffling with each other to snatch women and children as well as valuables from each other. During their scuffle a spark fell on gun powder lying there which resulted into the death of several persons; these included the son of Sucha Nand of Sarhind and several Muslim men and women who had been held captive by the Sikhs; their bodies were buried under the debris (caused by the fire and explosion).” (The non-Italic text is mine- Author).

[5] Khan Khanan took Bahadur Shah’s castigation to his heart and became despondent. This made him mentally sick and he was confined to bed. He, however, continued to move along with the Emperor’s caravan. After about two month’s illness, he died at village Badhauli (near Sadhaura). Khan Khanan had a mansab of seven thousand horsemen, out of which five thousand was double horses, the highest mansab at that time. He had, by then, obtained awards of about ten million rupees from the royal court.

Could Lohgarh Fort Be Capured ?

The capture of Lohgarh Fort, as narrated above is based on the writings of the Mughals or the Akhbarat-I-Darbar-Mualla (letters of the Jaipur rulers’ agents in the Mughal court; and, this information were based on what they learnt from the Mughal court). It seems that all this was written or narrated to please the Emperor or to boast of the might of the Mughal army or to prove that the Sikh army was weak and powerless.

We have seen that the Lohgarh Fort is 40 to 50 kilometers in length and 10 to 15 kilometers in width. The periphery of this Fort is 50 km which surrounded by 52 Fortresses and dozens of hills. Could this Fort be captured in just one or two days? This is impossible. In one day, even one Fortress cannot be captured. There are dozens of hills, some of them very hazardous to enemy having towers, bastions, trenches and walls on each hill.

According to Muhammed Qasim Aurangabadi, “Khan Khanan and the Mughal prince were of the opinion that the occupation of the Fort will not be possible in less than one year.[1]


False Propaganda About Occupation of Lohgarh Fort

To claim that the Mughal army attacked and captured the Fort in just a few hours or a couple of days is just a joke. The truth is that the Mughals captured only one or two hills of the Fort of Lohgarh. To please the Emperor, they spread the news that they had captured the Lohgarh Fort. Kamwar Khan, Khafi Khan and Muhammed Qasim Khan, who claimed to be eyewitnesses to the battle, had said all this to propagate that the soldiers of the Mughal army were ‘great fighters’, the Mughal generals were ‘great planners’ and the Sikhs were ‘no force against these mighty Mughals’. In fact, this Fort was so vast (in length and width), and surrounded with so many hazardous hills, that it could not have been fully captured even in 6-7 years.

What to talk of capturing the Lohgarh Fort, even the path between Sadhaura and Lohgarh could not have been covered by the Mughal army in this short time. There were 52 Fortresses between Sadhaura and Lohgarh, and, these were very strong posts; there were soldiers and cannons and other ammunition in each bastion and trench; hence the Mughals were supposed to fight 52 battles before reaching just the foothills of Lohgarh Fort.

Why Did Banda Singh leave Lohgarh?

After months of struggle made by the Mughals, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur realized that Mughal forces are confused and now they were trying to achieve only one objective i.e capturing of Sikh leaders and that they were no more interested in capturing Lohgarh. Moreover, like a game of chess, as a part of the strategy the players try to make the opponent concentrate the power at a particular point and once the power is concentrated at one point, the better player shifts the attack on the opponent’s king from the other side. The same thing happened at Lohgarh Fort. When the Mughal forces got accumulated at Lohgarh Fort, under the banner of Emperor  Bahadur Shah, and the forces failed to control and capture the Lohgarh Fort,  Baba Banda Singh Bahadur very tactfully shifted the theatre of war from Lohgarh to Lahore. Understanding as stated above, we may conclude that with in one of two days the Mughals forces could not have reached even near the advance fortress of Lohgarh. After his escape through the territory of Nahan (as stated by Mohammed Qasim Aurangabadi) Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, along with his 20 Sikh generals and army of 40000 armed horsemen, planned to attack Lahore, report 22 March 1711.[1]


Scenario After the (so-called) ‘Capturing’ of the One or Two Hills of Lohgarh

In this false “victory”, the royal army captured five elephants, three big cannons, seventeen small cannons, seven carriage vehicles (on which guns are carried), one tent and a few silver poles from Lohgarh Fort, and about eight lakh rupees and a few ashrafis were recovered from Kundan, the zamindar of Lohgarh.[1] On the first of December all these things were brought to the Kampo village to be presented before the Emperor.[2]

The Emperor appreciated the role of Jamadat-ul-Mulk and Zulfiqar Khan Bakhshi-ul-Mulk in this battle; similarly, Zorawar Khan, Ranbaz Khan and Sher Khan were also presented robes of honour.

On Sunday, the 3rd of December 1710, the Emperor held his court and gave awards to those who had played a special role in the battle against the Sikhs.[3] These awards included: robe of honor and a turban to Jamadat-Ul-Mulk and Bakhshi-Ul-Mumalak; special robe of honor to Mahabat Khan, Islam Khan Bahadur and Raja Udit Singh; Raja Chhatarsal was presented an aigrette and an elephant was given to Churamani Jatt.[4]

On the 6th of December, the Emperor issued an order strictly banning the Hindu officials of the Darbar from buying slaves or women or looting property of the rebels (this right was confined to the Muslims only); the Emperor further ordered that if any Hindu was already holding any slave or a woman, he must release them. It is very interesting that those who played major role in the battle of Lohgarh included a very large number of Hindus, but the Emperor was still inimical to the non-Muslims in spite of their contribution.

On the same day, the Emperor was told that the soldiers had dug out five hundred thousand rupees and three thousand four hundred ashrafis from Lohgarh Fort.


Bahadur Shah Orders Massacre Of the Sikhs

On the 10th of December 1710 , Bahadur Shah issued a blanket order of the massacre of the Sikhs. In his order, issued to Mahabat Khan (Bakhshi-ul-Mumalik), he asked him to issue commands to the governors of Shahjahanabad and the other provinces that if they find any Nanak-prast (Sikh) anywhere, should kill him instantly. Later, on the 26th of March 1711, he issued orders that a Sikh should not be mentioned as Sikh but as ‘Sikh-Chor (thief)’.

The Fate Of the Ruler Of Nahan

On Sunday, the 3rd of December 1710, the Emperor sent orders to Gian Chand (the ruler of Kumaon), Fateh Shah (the ruler of Garhwal) and Bhup Parkash (the ruler of Nahan) informing them about the escape of Banda Singh and commanding them to arrest and present him before the Emperor Bahadur Shah. Bahadur Shah also dispatched Hamid Khan to chase Banda Singh; he also commanded him to arrest the ruler of Nahan in case Banda Singh is not captured by him (because Banda Singh had entered the territory of Nahan State).

When Hamid Khan reached Nahan, the ruler did not meet him as he knew about the wrath of the Emperor. At this Hamid Khan assured them that Mahabat Khan has given word that nothing will happen to Bhup Parkash (the ruler of Nahan).

On the 12th of December 1710, Hamid Khan presented Bhup Parkash, the minor king of Nahan, before Bahadur Shah. He was accompanied by Khwaja Kutub-Ud-Din, Dianat Rao and Uma Pandit. Bhup Parkash presented one hundred one mohars and several birds of prey, including four falcons, five jurra, nine kitash and five hundred jadwar[1] to the Emperor. In return, the Emperor presented him a robe, and ordered that he will remain in the custody of the royal court.[2]

The next day he was offered release in case he could get Banda Singh arrested.[3] The Emperor sent a message to his (minor ruler’s) mother asking her to exchange her son by presenting Banda Singh. At this Bhup Parkash’s mother arrested 35 Sikhs and dispatched them to the Emperor. The Emperor ordered the killing of these Sikhs but refused to release Bhup Parkash till Banda was arrested.

Khafi Khan reports that on the 13th of March 1711, the Emperor puts Bhup Parkash and Gulab Singh Bakhshi (a companion of Banda Singh arrested from Lohgarh) in a big iron cage and dispatched them to Delhi. On the 20th Of March 1711 the Emperor ordered that both of them should be interned in Qila Salimgarh (a Fort on the backside of the Lal Qila, especially reserved for prominent prisoners) and a receipt (of the arrival of the prisoners) given by the in charge of the Fort, be also presented before him the (Emperor). (Later, the mother of the ruler of Nahan approached the Rajput rulers of Jaipur and Jodhpur and requested them to use their influence for the release of Bhup Parkash, but they told her that they could not do anything and he would be released only when Banda Singh was arrested).

On 17 March 1711, the Emperor sent command to Mahabat Khan to put Bhup Parkash in the thorny cage that had been made for Banda Singh. Mahabat Khan submitted before the Emperor that Bhup Parkash was innocent and Banda Singh had already sneaked out of the territory of Nahan. At this the Emperor said ‘if you do not punish him, all the hill rulers will become Sikhs. You must punish him’. Mahabat Khan again pleaded that the nails inside are sharp and hard and Bhup Parkash would die as soon as he put into the cage. Even this could not change the callous mind of the Emperor and he said ‘in case the Raja dies, he will surely go to hell’. After this Mahabat Khan did not plead any more, and, in compliance of the Emperor’s command, he put Bhup Pakash into the cage, but before that he asked his servants to bend the nails, so that they might not inflict wounds to Bhup Parkash.[4]

Pancholi Jagjiwan Das gives a different story. According to him, when Bhup Parkash and his Diwan (minister) reached there (before the Emperor), Khan Khanan asked them, “where is Banda Singh”? At this the minister said Banda Singh had gone out of their State. Reacting to this Khan Khanan said that was telling lies and he insulted him. He (Diwan) was handcuffed, his feet were fettered and an iron belt was put around his neck and he was put into a cage. Raja Bhup Parkash too was unarmed and he was interned in a small tent; and, soldiers were posted to keep a watch on him. Pancholi Jagjiwan Das further says that Raja Chhatarsaal too had assured Raja Bhup Parkash that he will not be harmed. But, when Chhatarsaal saw that the Emperor has impressed Bhup Parkash, he left the camp of the Emperor and returned to his own country.[5]

According to Diwan Bhikhari Das when Raja Nahan reached there Khan Khanan asked him where is Banda Singh, the Raja said ‘I don’t know. My Diwan (minister) is a Sikh of the Guru, He might have knowledge of the Banda Singh’s whereabouts’. At this the minister was arrested and badly beaten. His survival was in danger. The next day, the Emperor said, ‘You will find nothing by beating the minister; instead arrest Raja of Nahan and tell him that if he does not present Banda Singh, his State will be destroyed.’[6]

On 22 January 1711, when the Emperor was near Sadhaura, a messenger brought the news that Raja of Nahan’s mother had captured Banda Singh and she was on her way to present him to the Emperor. She was about 12 kos (about 45 kilometers) from the royal camp. At this the Emperor commanded that Mahabat Khan should go and bring them to his presence. The Emperor sent a message to Mahbat Khan to put Banda Singh in the cage and his wive should be brought in a chariot. On 24 Janaury, the Emperor ordered that Hindu style ornaments worth rupees one hundred thousand should be made for the mother of Raja Nahan (as an award for arresting Banda Singh).[7] Though, later, the news of the arrest of Banda Singh proved to be false.