Bhai Baj Singh was an intrepid indian warrior, with indomitable spirit and one of the most trusted advisors of Banda Singh Bahadur, the famous Sikh General who liberated Punjab from the tyranny of Mughal rule and established the foundation of the Sikh empire which came into being in less than a century after his death in 1716.
According to Gokul Chand Narang, Baj Singh was a Jat of Bal clan and a native of Mir Pur, Patti in Amritsar district of Punjab. According to Dr. Hari Ram Gupta and Dr. Santokh Singh, he was a descendant of the third Guru Amar Das. He was a devoted disciple of Guru Gobind Singh, had received Amrit and initiated into the Khalsa fold by the Guru himself. Baj Singh had taken part in the major battles fought by Guru Gobind Singh and had accompanied him to the Deccan. He was commander of Majha Sikhs (land between Ravi and Beas rivers) and along with his brothers: Ram Singh, Sham Singh and Kuber Singh served the Guru’s house reverently and faithfully.
Before passing away in 1708, Guru Gobind Singh instructed Banda Singh Bahadur to wage a war against the Mughal rule, fight oppression, tyranny and seek revenge for the crimes committed against his family. The Guru appointed Baj Singh as one of the five Sikhs in the advisory council of Banda Singh Bahadur along with Binod Singh, Ram Singh, Fateh Singh and Kahn Singh. Twenty five other Sikhs accompanied Banda Singh in his military expedition to seek retribution against the oppressors in Punjab.
Banda Singh Bahadur was an excellent military commander, while on his way to Punjab, he was able to gain support of Sikhs and was able to consolidate a large army. He easily defeated the petty chiefs along the way and attacked Sarhind with his newly raised troops. Sarhind was governed by the notorious Wazir Khan, who had attacked Anandpur Sahib, was responsible for the deaths of Guru Gobind Singh’s younger sons and his mother. A fierce battle was fought between the contending armies. Banda’s army was numerically less, had no artillery, cavalry, elephants or much firepower. They were betrayed by some of their local leader; however, they possessed the determination and zeal to defeat the tyrants. Banda’s commanders consisted of Baj Singh, who headed the right flank, Binod Singh the left flank while Banda commanded the centre facing Wazir khan.
During the battle, Baj Singh fought against the chief advisor of Wazir Khan, Suchanand, who had instigated the Governor to execute the young sons of Guru Gobind Singh. He could not stand the ferocity and superior martial skills of Baj Singh and fled the battlefield like a wimp. During the sanguine battle, Baj Singh charged upon Wazir Khan. The Governor threw his spear at him, which was caught by Baj Singh. He flung the same spear back upon Wazir Khan. It however missed the target, but struck the forehead of the Governor’s horse. Recovering from the attack, Wazir Khan discharged an arrow which hit Baj Singh’s arm. Taking advantage of the situation, Wazir Khan rushed upon him with his sword. At this juncture another Sikh, Fatah Singh came to the rescue of Baj Singh. His sword cut Wazir Khan from shoulder to the waist. Thus the tyrannous Governor met his fate and was avenged by the Sikhs.
After the capture of Sarhind, Banda Singh Bahadur appointed Baj Singh as Governor of Sarhind along with Ali Singh, the leader of Malwa Sikhs as his Deputy. Following instructions from Banda Singh Bahadur, Baj Singh abolished the Zamindari system and introduced peasant proprietorship, which gave land back to the peasants. This allowed the cultivators to own their land and become independent from the subjugation of Zamindars. It ingrained the spirit of liberty, confidence and self-respect amongst the farming community and they began to look upon themselves as masters of the land. It established egalitarianism amongst the Jats, which led to their supremacy in Punjab and many from the community embraced Sikhism in large numbers.
When Emperor Bahadur Shah learnt about the depredations caused by Banda, he rushed back from Deccan to the North, passed Delhi and on his way led campaigns, defeated the generals appointed by Banda. In the month of November 1710 the imperial army attacked Sarhind and a fierce battle took place between the two forces. The Sikhs could not hold Sarhind against a vastly superior force of Mughal Empire and so they withdrew tactically to their headquarters at Lohgarh to join Banda Singh Bahadur. They kept up the struggle against the imperial forces until they had to temporarily suppress their resistance. Since the Sikhs were scattered all across Punjab, they lacked cohesion and lost their fortifications in quick succession to the repressing Mughal forces.
Eventually in 1715, Banda Singh Bahadur was defeated by the Mughal Emperor and along with Baj Singh and other Sikhs taken to Delhi. According to Dr. H R Gupta, Baj Singh escaped from his captivity in Delhi and was saved from execution. According to Dr. Ganda Singh, on arrival of the procession at the Imperial fort, Baj Singh along with Banda Singh, Bhai Fateh Singh and a few other leaders were made over to Ibrahim-ud-Din Khan, Mir Atish to be imprisoned at the Tripolia and they were martyred subsequently in 1716 at Delhi.
According to Dr. Santokh Singh, Baj Singh was one of the 740 Sikhs captured along with Banda Singh Bahadur at Gurdas Nangal and brought to Delhi. The Sikh leaders, along with Baj Singh and Fateh Singh were kept alive to gain information about the treasure taken away by Banda Singh. As the story goes, while they were being executed near Qutab Minar on June 10, 1716, Emperor Farukh Siyar sarcastically asked if the famous Baj Singh, with his so called unmatched valour, was present amongst the prisoners. Baj Singh proudly announced his presence and demanded to be freed from his shackles if his valour was to be tested. As soon as his chains were removed, Baj Singh seized a sword from a Mughal soldier, pounced upon the surrounding guards and created havoc amongst the crowd. He slashed the heads of a few warriors before they could act and overpower him. Emperor Farukh Siyar had a narrow escape during this ordeal. He was finally caught by the soldiers and publically executed.
In conclusion, I would like to pay my tribute to these brave Sikhs who fought against oppression, injustice, became our role models and instilled in us courage and indomitable spirit. Let us reverently remember them, their valor, and the sacrifices made by them for our community.
- History of the Sikhs by Dr. H.R Gupta
- A Short History of the Sikhs by Dr. Ganda Singh
- The Guru’s Word & Illustrated Sikh History by Dr. Santokh Singh
- Transformation of Sikhism into Political Organization by Gokul Chand Narang
- Bharigu, Ratan Singh, Prachin Parith Prakash. Amritsar, 1962
- Gian Singh, Giani, Twankh Guru Khalsst. Patiala, 1970
- Ganda Singh, Banda Singh Bahadur. Amritsar, 1935
- The Sikh Encyclopedia