Baba Baghel Singh

Vanquisher of Mughal Delhi ~ S. Baghel Singh

Few of us know that Baghel Singh vanquished Delhi and the Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam, had to yield to his terms

It is really sad that we Sikhs have forgotten our Sikh generals and heroes. Most of us do not know that there was a time when Sikh generals like Hari Singh Nalwa subdued Afghans and hoisted the Sikh flag beyond the Khyber pass. We do not remember that once the Gang Doab was under the protection of the Sikh Misls and the Sikh chiefs realized Rakhi (Protection money) from that area. A few of us know that Baghel Singh vanquished Delhi, entered the Red Fort and the Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam, had to yield to his (Baghel Singh) terms in 1783.

Karora Singh, head of the Karorsinghia Misal, was issue less and had adopted his personal servant, Baghel Singh, as his successor. After the death of Karora Singh in the battle against the Nawab of Kunjpur in 1761, Baghel Singh who belonged to a poor Dhalival Jatt family succeeded him as head of the Karorsinghia Misl. He was born in village Jhabhal situated 30 kms from Amritsar. He was tall, well-built, with brownish eyes and slightly blackish color. He was brave, fearless and wise.

His Main Campaigns and Acquisition of territories

After the death of Adina Beg Khan, when the Sikh Sardars were acquiring lands, Baghel Singh obtained a large part of Hoshiarpur district and nearly one-forth of the Jalandhar Doab. He established his headquarters at Hariana, near Hoshiarpur. He entrusted the control of this area to his wife, Rup Kanwar. She managed very well.

After the conquest of Sarhind by the Sikhs and murder of Zain Khan, Governor Of Sarhind, in 1764, the Sikh Sardars divided his territories. Baghel Singh occupied Chhalondi, Jamaitgarh, Khurdin and Kinori. He established his second headquarters at Chhalondi near Karnal and handed over the administration of this territory to his second wife, Ram Kanwar, who proved a good administrator.

In 1764, Baghel Singh with Jassa Singh Ahluwalia poured into the Upper Ganga Doab with forty thousand strong army and captured Saharnpur and Muzaffarnagar. They helped Jawahar Singh of Bharatpur against Najib-ud- Daulah, the Director of Delhi, who was defeated and had to pay the Sikhs eleven lakhs of rupees.

In 1775, Baghel Singh along with two other Sikh Sardars again crossed the Yamuna river, occupied Deoband and surrounding cities; and realized an annual tribute of six hundred rupees. Zabita Khan Rohilla successor of Najib-ul-Daulah was forced to pay Rs. 50,000 and agreed to help the Sikhs to conquer Delhi. They advanced as far as Khurja and Paharganj. They defeated the imperial forces near Muzaffarnagar, but they had to go home. Now the whole of the Yamuna-Gangetic Doab was at the mercy of the Sikhs who enforced Rakhi system (protection money).

In 1779, a large Mughal army marched to attack Amar Singh, ruler of Patiala. Some rulers of the Sikh states like Kaithal, Thanesar and Buria, whose territories had been seized by Amar Singh, also joined the Mughals. Baghel Singh also helped the Mughals as Amar Singh had occupied some of his villages. The imperial forces encircled Patiala. Amar Singh sought the help of Majha Sikhs. He visited Baghel Singh in his camp at Lehal and made peace with him. Sahib Singh s/o Amar Singh was baptized by Baghel Singh. Baghel Singh outwitted the Mughal forces who retreated suffering heavy losses.

The civil war among the Cis- Satluj Sikh Sardars tempted the Mughals to recover the crown-lands. In 1781 Mirza Shafi with a select force of ten thousand captured the Sikh military post at Indri. Baghel Singh retaliated and besieged Khalil Beg Khan at Shahabad. He surrendered. Now Baghel Singh attacked Shafi's camp and he had to retreat. Zabita Khan was sent by the Mughal government to negotiate with the Sikhs. Their right to levy Rakhi on lands between Panipat and Delhi and the upper Gangetic Doab was conceded.

Now Baghel Singh advanced further south and conquered Aligarh, Hathras, Tundla and Farrukhabad. Large quantities of gold ornaments and diamonds fell into Baghel Singh's hands. As reported candidly by a Maratha agent in Delhi, the Emperor ruled inside the city and outside the Sikhs were supreme. Najaf Khan died in 1782 and there was a chance for the Sikhs to become the sovereign power of India, but they missed the chance and crossed the Ganges. The rulers of Garhwal and Nahan submitted to them. The Shivalik hills, including Dehra Dun came under them. On their way back, they pillaged Agra. Sikhs were treated like rulers. Seeing this, Forster,an English traveler, who was present in Rohilkhand has written that he wished for the power of migrating into the body of a Sikh for a few weeks..

Domination of the Mughal capital, Delhi, for nine months in 1783

50,000 Sikh troops under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Baghel Singh advanced towards Delhi.

Baghel Singh's troops numbering thirty thousand conquered Sabzi Mandi and Mughalpura on March 9, 1783. Prince Mirza Shikoh tried to check them, but he suffered a defeat and ran away. Fazal Ali Khan came out to oppose the Sikhs, but failed. The Sikhs broke through the Ajmeri gate and ravaged Hauz Qazi. On 11th March, 1783, the Sikhs entered the Red Fort and occupied the Diwan-e-Aam without any opposition. The Emperor hid himself in his private apartments. They seated Jassa Singh Ahluwalia on the throne and proclaimed him as Padishah. By this time Jassa Singh Ramgariah who was not on good terms with Ahluwaia Sardar arrived there from Hissar with ten thousand Sikh soldiers and opposed this action. Both sides drew out swords, but Ahluwalia did not like the fratricidal conflict and saved the situation by declining the highest honor. The Sikhs seized on whatever they could,

The Emperor invited Begam Samru for help . She had good relation with Baghel Singh who had saved her life during a Sikh attack . The Emperor gave her full authority to settle terms with the Sikhs to save the city from further destruction. Following terms were settled and approved by the Emperor:

  • The Dal Khalsa would retire from Delhi .
  • Baghel Singh would stay in the capital with his own 4,000 troops.
  • He would be responsible for maintaining law and order in the city and realise taxes.
  • He would establish his camp in Sabzi Mandi (old site).
  • The Sikhs would not misbehave in any way during their stay in the capital
  • Baghel Singh would charge six annas in the rupee (37.5%) of all the octroi duties in Delhi to meet the expenses for preserving peace.
  • Baghel Singh was allowed to build seven Gurdwaras at the sacred places of the Sikhs.
  • The construction of Gurdwaras was to be finished within a year at the most.

Baghel Singh with ten thousand horsemen took charge of the octroi posts and established perfect peace and order in the city for nine months as the Sikh horsemen patrolled the city and the suburbs.

Building of the Gurdwaras

Credit for building the following Gurdwaras goes to Baghel Singh:

1. Gurdwra at Teliwara in memory of Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Devi, wives of Guru Gobind Singh as they had lived there for some time.
2. Gurdwara Bangla Sahib where Guru Hari Krishan had stayed in the bungalow of Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur.
3. Four tombs were constructed at the bank of the Jamuna river where Guru Hari Krishn, Mata Sundri, her adopted son, Sahib Singh, and Mata Sahib Kaur were cremated. A Gurdwara was also erected there.
4. Gurdwara Rakabganj where headless body of Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated by Lakhi Banjara.
5. Gurdwara Sisganj where the 9th Master was beheaded.

Construction of Gurdwara RakabGanj was opposed by the local population, but Baghel Singh handled it tactfully and overcame the opposition. There was very strong opposition for the construction of Gurdwara Sisganj. Baghel Singh pacified Muslims by not harming the mosque. He pulled down a portion of the compound wall and built the Gurdwara in the compound.

6. A Gurdwara was constructed at Majnun ka Tilla where Guru Nanak Dev had stayed.

7. The seventh Gurdwara was raised at Moti Bagh where Guru Gobind Singh had lived.

All the seven Gurdwaras were constructed by the end of November 1783. Thus the supremacy and tact of Baghel Singh overcame the opposition without bloodshed. The Emperor was pleased and wanted to meet Baghel Singh, but he did not want to bow before the Emperor and put the condition of coming with a contingent of his armed troops. His conditions were accepted and the meeting took place. Baghel Singh was presented a Khilat, an elephant and a necklace of pearls. He was also promised 12.5 per cent of the octroi duties of Delhi to be remitted to him at Chhalondi annually.

The Emperor Offered Baghel Singh the Post of Regent

In 1784, the emperor wanted to appoint Baghel Singh Regent of the Mughal Empire ignoring the Marathas and the British. Baghel Singh did not take advantage of this offer. Some historians like Khushwant Singh write that it was not a wise step on his part .So the Emperor appointed Madhaji Sindhia, a Maratha chief, Regent in the end of 1784.

Sack of Chandausi,1785

In the beginning of 1785,Baghel Singh and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia crossed the river Ganga and swept over the upper Ganga Doab, a part of which was under the British protection. After conquering Moradabad and surrounding villages, they turned towards Chandausi, acquired booty worth a crore of rupees and returned unmolested. The Sikh domination in the Ganga Doab deeply alarmed the British.

Treaty with Madhaji Sindhia

Madhaji Sindhia formed a treaty with Baghel Singh and other Sikh Sardars in March, 1785. By this treaty, the Sikhs agreed not to levy Rakhee on the crownlands and the Emperor will pay them 10 lack rupees annually, but the treaty did not last long.

Sindhia Grants Jagir to Baghel Singh

Ghulam Qadir Rohilla attacked Delhi, blinded the Emperor in 1787, but was killed by Marathas. Madhaji granted a large Jagir to Baghel Singh in 1789 to restrain Sikhs from entering imperial territories and to win his friendship.

George Thomas Defeated by Baghel Singh

George Thomas, an Irish adventurer, established himself at Hansi as the ruler of Haryana. He was against the Sikhs. Baghel Singh with other Sikh chiefs joined Perron, a French general, and defeated Thomas in 1797.

Baghel Singh's Character, Achievements and Death

Baghel Singh was brave, fearless, wise and diplomatic. He was the most successful negotiator of all the Sikh chiefs. The Mughals, the Rohilas, the Marathas and the English sought his friendship. Sometimes he played double game and took advantage from both the parties. He was very rich, but remained a humble servant of the Guru. His service of constructing of historical Gurdwaras at Delhi was unique and will be remembered for ever. This was all due to his influence with the Mughal Emperor and friendly relation with Begam Samru. His impartial and sympathetic treatment of the people of Delhi during his nine months control of the capital is testimony of his ability. His men never tortured anybody to make him disclose place of his hidden treasure.

When Abdali was returning after his 9th invasion of India, Baghel Singh with other Sikh chiefs attacked him near Sialkot, freed many Hindu girls abducted by Abdali and restored them to their parents. At the request of a Brahman whose daughter was abducted by the ruler of Jalalabad, he crossed the river Yamna, attacked Jalalabad, killed its ruler Hasan Khan and restored the Brahman's daughter to her husband. History books show that the Sikhs never outraged women in spite of the fact that there was no external check on them. Sir Lepel Griffin has stated they fought and plundered like men, and not like demons. According to Bhai Gian Singh, he died in 1802 at Hariana in Hoshiarpur district. A samadh in his memory stands in the town. We can safely claim that he dominated the Sikh politics in the last quarter of the 18th century.

Why did Baghel Singh fail to Rule outside the Punjab?

The Sikhs, at that time,were mere warriors and not statesmen-warriors..They lacked political vision. They had no desire to occupy territories beyond the boundaries of Punjab. They considered those areas as a source of booty and a land to realize protection money. In the words of Kushwant Singh, a well -known Sikh writer, they were little more than brigands. Baghel Singh refused many offers from the Emperor to rule in his name so he turned to the Marathas. Had he accepted this offer. the Sikh rule would have extended to a major part of India. The Mughal Empire was rotten and Baghel Singh had the capacity and ability to build a political power of the Sikhs. Unfortunately he lost his only son in 1781, and had no ambition for higher political power. It proves that military capacity of the Sikhs of that period was great, but their political insight was nil.

Feeling of Mutual jealousy and rivalry among Sikh Chiefs was an another important factor. A misaldar turned against against another misaldar. Spirit of friction prevailed among them. They did not care for mutual cooperation for the nation's interest . They fought over the honor the Sikhs wanted to confer on the Ahluwalia chief in the Red Fort in March, 1783. Baghel Singh belonged to a poor family,so he did not claim that honor. Had Sikh chiefs united, the Sikhs would have ruled India.

Sikh chiefs including Baghel Singh were always worried about their territories in the Punjab as every Sikh chief was after increasing area under his control by usurping the area of some other chief. They were fighting among themselves. Moreover, invaders from the west forced them to go back and protect the Punjab

It is need of the hour that we educate ourselves and our next generation by observing the days of our warriors like Baghel Singh. There should be an annual big fair at Hariana (Hoshiarpur) in the memory of Baghel Singh, the vanquisher of Mughal Delhi. Some monument like a big hospital should be built at Hariana in the name of Baghel Singh who built very important Gurdwaras for us. We should annually observe the day Baghel Singh entered the Red Fort by holding a grand tournament at Jhabal, his native village. Gurdwra Parbadhank committee, Delhi, should celebrate 11th March annually in memory of the victory of Baghel Sigh and open one defense academy for preparing Sikh youth to become military officers.

Bibliography

1.The Encycopadia of Sikhism, volume one, Punjabi University, Patiala
2. History of the Sikhs, volume 3rd & 4th, Delhi, 2007 by Dr. Hari Ram Gupta
3.A history of the Sikhs,volume 1st, Second Edition by Kushwant Singh
4.Sikh Mislan, Ludhiana,1993 by Sohan Singh Sital

Photo Credit: http://www.punjabkbank.com/2014/06/
Sawan Singh Gogia

Sawan Singh Gogia

I do not profess to be a writer or a scholar. It is all with the grace of God that I have been able to write 10 books

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