Author: Sohan Singh
Publisher: Punjabi University
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8173806713
Banda Singh Bahadur was a Sikh military commander. At age 15 he left home to become an ascetic, and was given the name ‘’Madho Das’’. He established a monastery at Nande?, on the bank of the river Godavari, where in September 1708 he was visited by, and became a disciple of, Guru Gobind Singh, who gave him the new name of Banda Singh Bahadur. Armed with the blessing and authority of Guru Gobind Singh, he assembled a fighting force and led the struggle against the Mughal Empire.
His first major action was the sack of the Mughal provincial capital, Samana, in November 1709. After establishing his authority in Punjab, Banda Singh Bahadur abolished the zamindari system, and granted property rights to the tillers of the land. He was captured by the Mughals and tortured to death in 1716.
FROM THE BOOK FOREWORD:
The post-Guru period in the Sikh history is marked by a long-drawn struggle against their persecution by the oppressive Mughal governments which prepared ground for the political ascendency of the Sikhs. Attempts were made at their total extirpation and prices were fixed on their heads. The most outstanding and yet enigmatic personality of this period undoubtedly has been Banda Singh Bahadur - a Rajput by birth, an ascetic by choice and playful by temperament, but whose personality and vision underwent a complete metamorphosis at a mere glimpse of the Tenth Master to whom he submitted himself as a slave (Banda), received initiation in the Khalsa-fold and provided political leadership to the Khalsa during the most turbulent period of its history.
Banda Singh fascinated both Hindus and Sikhs equally during the period of renaissance that the Punjabis witnessed during the early period of twentieth century and books were brought out mostly in Urdu and Punjabi to project Banda as hero on either side. The first work on Banda by a Sikh was Karam Singh's biography of Banda Bahadur (1907) in Punjabi. Karam Singh accepted norms and constraints of the then emerging trends of modern historiography. Sohan Singh's Life and Exploits of Banda Singh Bahadur (1915) is the first work on Banda in English. He too displays a high sense of historical enquiry and he ascertains all facts by crosschecking them with the available material and critically examines the events to arrive at the truth.
In the entire range of Sikh history, the account of Banda Singh Bahadur has remained almost an enigmatic phenomenon for the historians. Most scholars have not been able to perceive how an ascetic of some credibility, engaged in exercise of occult powers made an instant decision of joining the Khalsa-fold after a short but fateful meeting with Guru Gobind Singh in his own hermitage. The encounter between Banda and the tenth Guru has been variously described by chroniclers but the account given by Syad Ahmad Shah of Batala is both vivid and convincing. The important thing that he mentions is that the ascetic (Madho Das) fell at the feet of the Guru and described himself as his (Guru's) slave (Banda). The Guru administered him pahul and shifted him to his own camp.' He got the name Banda Singh and became a chosen disciple of Guru Gobind Singh. Having become a devout Sikh, he insisted upon the observance of Khalsa code of conduct (rehat).
When repeated successes came his way culminating in the fall of Sirhind, he ascribed it to the grace of the Guru and struck coins in the names of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. Despite all this, Banda's past as an ascetic (Bairagi) stuck with him. The early Muslim chroniclers look at him as successor to a rebel force, Guru Gobind Singh, and as such many a time describe him as 'Guru' not understanding the implications of Guru Gobind Singh's decision to end the practice of Guru manifesting in the physical form and vesting the authority of the Guru in the Granth and the Panth Khalsa. The authors of Siyar-ul-Mutakhrin and Muntkhab-ul-Lubab remained more concerned with the details of the atrocities committed by the forces of Banda against Muslims. Anxious to explain reasons for the discomfiture of some powerful Mughal satraps at the hands of Banda, they tried to attribute it to the occult and miraculous powers of Banda as an ascetic (Bairagi), which he is believed to have possessed before he entered the Khalsa-fold
Editors' Note: Historiography of Banda Singh Bahadur
1. Birth, Parentage and Early Life
2. Visited By Guru Gobind Singh
3. Advent in the Punjab
4. A Brief Outline of the Situation
5. Preliminary Operations
6. Pillage of Samana
7. Difficulties of the Majha Sikhs
8. Conquest of Sadhaura
9. Battle of Ropar
11. Punishing the Masands And Further Progress
12. Conquest of Saharanpur and the Surrounding Tract
14. Regaining the Last Position
15. Further Fights with the Kasuri Pathans
16. Plunder of Kalanaur and Batala
17. Retrogression and Distruption
18. Captivity and End