Third Mughal Attack On Lohgarh

Banda Singh Bahadur knew that after capturing the Fort of Sadhaura, the Mughal army would surely attack Lohgarh Fort; so, he dispatched every good, except weapons, to Paonta Sahib (12 Kos, i.e. about 45 kilometers from Lohgarh).[1]

Having captured Sadhaura, Abdus Samad Khan wanted to attack Lohgarh Fort, but his companions told him that there was no hope of winning this battle; hence he postponed the decision. This delay gave opportunity to Banda Singh Bahadur and he further strengthened Lohgarh Fort. He strengthened the walls, and, built bastions and trenches.

On 21 August 1713, an advance unit of the Mughal army went towards Lohgarh. This party came under the attack of the Sikh soldiers. From among the soldiers of this unit at least 40 were killed, 20 were wounded and 35 were arrested by the Sikhs. The rest of them left everything there and ran empty-handed and saved their lives. Besides, the Sikhs captured about 100 horses, 30 camels, 40 buffalos and 200 other animals. Almost during the same days, the death of Mohkam Singh, a general of the Mughals, too disheartened the Mughal soldiers, and the companions of Banda Singh became more daring and bold.[2]

On 29 August 1713, about 200 Mughal soldiers were patrolling in between Sadhaura and Lohgarh. When they saw just a small number of Sikhs, most of them ran away, but their leader Jamandar Baloch Khan was killed by the Sikhs. Beside him, four more Mughal nobles were also killed. The Sikhs chopped off their heads and took them into the hills of Lohgarh. These losses disheartened the Mughal army and they decided to postpone an immediate attack on Lohgarh.[3]

On 12 October 1713, the Emperor was told that Banda Singh was present in Lohgarh Fort and he was further strengthening it. The moat of the Fort was under preparation and Banda Singh intended to fight.[4] It was an indication to the Mughal generals that they should not make a hasty attack on Lohgarh Fort, otherwise they would have to suffer heavy losses.

According to Irvine, from the first ridge up to the wall of Lohgarh Fort, the Sikhs had built fifty-two defensive posts, arranged in such a manner that each protected the other, thus exposing an assailant to a deadly fire throughout his advance. The Fort was in more than a dozen hills, and, all around were bowers of trees, stones and ditches and gorges everywhere. It seemed that even angels with wings or birds could not reach there, then how a man or a horse could reach there. It was a really difficult venture.[5]

Having waited for some days more, Abdus Samad Khan began moving to Lohgarh. He covered this distance in 14 days. When he reached near the Fort, he pitched his tents there, but he did not launch an attack. After some days Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan (Faujdar of Sarhind) and Zakaria Khan (son of Abdus Samad Khan) too reached there.

On 13 November 1713, these three armies began a very heavy artillery attack on Lohgarh Fort. For the next four days guns and cannons bombarded all the hills of the Fort. It was such a heavy bombardment that (to quote an idiom used by Muhammed Qasim Aurangabadi) ‘even the wings of the gods might have been burnt’.[6] Banda Singh, who could watch the movement of the enemy from the tops of the hills, had seen that a mammoth army had surrounded the Fort from three sides.

Those soldiers who were in the front trenches and first layer of the hills fought bravely, but the firing made them helpless; hence many of them were killed and quite a number was captured as well. The Mughal attack continued for many days, but there was no fighting from the Sikhs’ side. This made the Mughal army understand that the Sikhs in the upper trenches and the hills had disappeared; they had escaped through high hills. Banda Singh and senior Sikh general had escaped without giving a fight. It seemed that only one thousand Sikhs were involved in the battle. Abdus Samad Khan, once again, failed to arrest or kill Banda Singh Bahadur. So, the Mughals lost this battle too. Their purpose was not to capture Lohgarh Fort; they were there to arrest or kill Banda Singh Bahadur; and they failed in this mission. Even by fleeing the scene Banda Singh had virtually defeated the Mughals.

Why Did Banda Singh Leave Lohgarh in 1713?

One may ask that it was neither failure of food supplies, nor in ammunition, then why did Banda Singh leave Lohgarh without giving a big fight? The answer is Banda Singh had a long term strategy. His purpose was not to achieve a small gain of winning the battle of Lohgarh. He wanted to keep the Mughal army constantly engaged in the battlefield and thus exhaust it, drain its treasury in paying salary for the soldiers and spending on provisions and ammunition, create constant fear in the mind of the Emperor and the Mughal aristocracy, and create an atmosphere of chaos for the officials of the Mughal regime.

     When he left Lohgarh on 30 November 1710, it was the same reason. He could have fought for several months. He left Lohgarh and the Mughal generals and the soldiers remained in trouble for so many days; the regime spent a lot of money for this expedition, the Emperor could not pay attention to other activities. The awe and chaos created by Banda Singh made the Emperor insane. This was the beginning of the destruction of the Mughal Empire. Even for the second time, in September 1712, he left Lohgarh without giving a fight. At that time too, along with Mohammed Amin Khan, hundreds of generals and thousands of Mughal soldiers, the Emperor had also engaged the Rajas of Jaipur and Jodhpur. This time too, the royal treasury spent a lot of money, and, it had to surrender revenue rights of the East and Gujrat to the rulers of Jaipur and Jodhpur, thus losing a considerable part of the royal income. The third time (in November 1713) too, the Governors of Lahore and Multan and the Faujdar of Sarhind and thousands of the soldiers of the Mughals spent many months to capture Sadhura and Lohgarh but they could not arrest or kill Banda Singh Bahadur. This time too they lost the battle. Had Banda Singh Bahadur not made the mistake of confining himself to Gurdas Nangal, in March 1715, the results would have been much different; he could have ended the Mughal Empire (at least in the Punjab), by 1720. Had the Rajput rulers of Udaipur, Jaipur and Jodhpur declared rebellion against the Mughals, this would have resulted in the end of the Mughal Empire in the whole of South Asia. Banda Singh’s battle was not over with his arrest and execution. The Sikh struggle of post-Banda Singh period, which ended the Mughal rule in the ‘Greater Punjab’, was continuation of the Banda Singh’s expedition.”

Having captured the lower part of Lohgarh Fort, the soldiers went up towards some stages of the Fort. There they found precious clothes, including silk and other precious clothes, gold and silver, utensils, spices like cardamom and cloves, animals (buffaloes and cows, etc.), slaves and womenfolk etc.; many soldiers plundered whatever they found there.[1]

This was the last battle of Lohgarh Fort. The battle of Lohgarh continued for three years (November 1710 to November 1713). During this period three major battles were fought. In the first battle, fought in November 1710, mammoth Mughal army of more than one hundred thousand soldiers led by the Mughal Emperor, his four princes and hundreds of Mughal generals and some Hindu rulers as well (some believe that the number of these soldiers was between two and three hundred thousand). The second battle was fought in September 1712. It was led by Mohammed Amin Khan, chief general of the Mughal army. The third battle was fought in October-November 1713. It was led by Abdus Samad Khan (Governor Lahore), Zain-ud-Din Ahmad Khan (Faujdar Sarhind), Inam Khan and Zakaria Khan (later Governor Lahore). After this third battle Banda Singh had gone to Jammu but still thousands of Sikh soldiers were present in Lohgarh Sadhura zone. They continued attacking the Mughal posts and plundering the Mughal aristocrats and ministers. The Emperor continued receiving news about such attacks[2] till Banda Singh was arrested and executed. The Lohgarh Fort was occupied by the Mughal army much after the execution of Banda Singh. After this the task of its demolition was taken up by the Mughals.

According to a report on 29 November 1713, about 900 Sikhs were killed in this battle.[3] Abdus Samad Khan severed the heads of the dead Sikhs and sent his son Zakaria Khan to present these before Farukhsiyar.

Zakaria Khan reached Delhi on the 29th of November 1713. Farukhsiyar inspected these heads and ordered that those (heads) should be hanged on spears and exhibited in the Chandni Chowk in Delhi. On the 3rd of December, Farukhsiyar presented a special robe of honour, an aigrette and an insignia to Zakaria Khan; Farukhsiyar also increased the mansab of Abdus Samad Khan from two and a half thousand to three thousand foot-soldiers and one thousand horses;[4] besides, a ceremonial nagara (drum) was also presented to him.

Abdus Samad Khan Honored as ‘Great Victorous’

Like Bahadur Shah and Jahandar Shah, Farukhsiyar too considered the Sikh issue as the most important and always gave it special consideration; due to this he had a special regard for Mohammed Amin Khan and Abdus Samad Khan who had been leading campaigns against the Sikhs. In the last week of February 1714, the Emperor received the message that Abdus Samad Khan would visit him on the 24th of February; he asked his ministers and advisors ‘how a great victorious general should be greeted in the Emperor’s court?’ He sought details as to which officers had welcomed and escorted Asad Khan to the court of the then Emperors after the victory of Jinji and Khan Jahan Bahadur after the victory of Bengal.[1]

Having received information, Farukhsiyar gave instructions to his courtiers to grant a befitting welcome to Abdus Samad Khan; he asked Mir Jumla to welcome Abdus Samad Khan at the gate of Diwan-i-Khas and escort him to his (Emperor’s) presence. When Abdus Samad Khan presented himself before the Emperor, he (Emperor) patted his back and presented him an aigrette with his own hands.[2]

On the 3rd of March 1714, Isa Khan Manjh too presented himself before the Emperor. The Emperor rewarded him also for his campaign against the Sikhs by permanently granting him the Faujdari (chief of law and order) and jagir (estate) of the Lakhi Jungle (most of the present Malwa of the Punjab) area. His mansab too was increased by nineteen hundred soldiers.[3] The Emperor rewarded other officials too.