The SikhsThe history of the Sikh Gurus and their faith is not relevant to this post---all that needs to be said is that their conflict with the Mughals rose on political grounds and developed into a military conflict. After a spirited resistance and a series of victories the Sikhs were defeated and sought shelter in the eastern hills where the Mughal power could not touch them---the Raja of Kahlur gave the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, a grant of land (the modern Anandpur Sahib). Subsequently Tegh Bahadur received recognition from the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and even fought under the Mughal banners in the train of Raja Ram Singh Kachhawa. Tegh Bahadur resisted Aurangzeb's policy of religious persecution; he was tortured and was asked to embrace Islam---the Guru instead embraced death.
His son Govind Rai tried to rouse the Punjabis against the Mughal power but he had to retire to the hills in 1676. At Anandpur Guru Govind began enlisting men and arranged for their training in military exercises---he received swords, spears, and firearms as offerings from his followers. One source for their military exercises were the local Rajputs, the only people who had managed to preserve unbroken their warrior traditions from ancient times. Guru Govind continued building up an army as long as relations with the Rajputs were good---this soon changed.
The small tract of Anandpur did not produce enough revenue to sustain the hordes of followers and mercenaries collected around the Guru, and the offerings of the devotees in Punjab were appropriated by the corrupt masands. Naturally men laced with arms will soon find an outlet for their energy and hunger---the Pathan mercenaries looted the nearby villages of Kahlur state and terrorized the gentle hill-people. These acts roused the Raja's wrath and he demanded an explanation from the Guru. Apprehensive of what the Raja might do Guru Govind decided to leave Anandpur---at this time the nearby Raja of Sirmaur invited the Guru to reside in his territory and gave him a grant of land (the modern Paonta Sahib).
The Sirmaur Raja was eager to have such a spiritual and military ally against his hereditary enemies, the Rajas of Kahlur and Garhwal who by that time had cemented an alliance by a marriage connection between their families. Their allied armies invaded Sirmaur in 1688---at Bhangani they were defeated by the forces of the Sirmaur Raja and Guru Govind. In this manner the Guru became involved in the local wars and skirmishes of the Rajput chiefs---some of these involved the Mughal officers based in the Punjab who had begun fighting for their personal gain during the long absence of Emperor Aurangzeb in the Deccan. When faced by such external enemies the Rajas formed military coalitions and opposed the invaders. All this time the Guru moved from place to place in the hills building up his military following and seeking aid from the Rajput chiefs; some helped him but others opposed the presence of his armed followers in their lands. Govind's aims were limited to regaining the Guruship from the control of the Sikh masands, who had Mughal support.
Although the modern Khalistani distortion of history tries to portray the Rajas as a joint concern subservient to the Mughals, they were in fact independent of the Mughals and not really allied among themselves. The Khulassat-ut-Tawarikh from the 17th century describes some of these hill-states and their defiance of the Mughal empire under Aurangzeb:
- The King of Kahlur by reason of the strength afforded by this river (Sutlej), the inaccessibility of the hills, and the security of his residence — the city of Bilaspur is his seat of government — swerves from obedience to the imperial officers.
- Though Gualiar [Guler] is a small country, yet its Raja has often defied the imperial officers by reason of the strength of the river (Beas) and inaccessibility of the hills.
- The Ravi issues from the mountains of Mani Mahesh, a dependency of the country of Chamba, which is a place sacred to Mahadev and has the snow and climate of Kashmir and Kabul, and produces many sweet and delicious fruits. The Kings of this place breathe the spirit of independence on account of the extent of their country, its large population, the inaccessibility of the hills, and the strength of their fastnesses, as this river forms a barrier to the imperial army.
In the manner of his ancestors who had given such grants to Hindu and Muslim holy men. However this is disputed by the Sikh sources, which state that this was a sale of land. There is no document to support either view.
Govind Rai initially showed anathema for the creed of Aurangzeb and would fine his followers 125 Rupees for bowing before the tomb of any Muslim saint!
Masands were appointed by the Gurus to collect offerings of devotees from different towns and villages; the posts soon became hereditary. The word is a corruption of the Persian title Masnad-e-ala, which was given to nobles under the Delhi Sultans---the Gurus themselves were called Sacche Padishah (true emperors) by their devoted followers.
This siege of 1704 was successful---the Guru's Pathan, Ranghar, and Gujjar mercenaries immediately switched loyalties and joined in the siege. Guru Govind Singh, after being deserted by most of his Sikh followers, was chased by a Mughal force into the Punjab. At Chamkaur he fought the Mughals with only forty Sikhs and again managed to escape---two of his sons were killed in this skirmish and two others were cruelly and unnecessarily executed by the Faujdar of Sarhind, Wazir Khan. Subsequently Govind sought shelter in Rajputana. Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707 and his sons fought each other in the war of succession---Guru Govind submitted to Bahadur Shah and took part in this conflict as his follower. Govind Singh pressed the new Emperor to punish Wazir Khan but was himself murdered by agents of the Sarhind faujdar in 1708.
Thus even after creating the Khalsa the Guru accepted the authority of the Mughal Emperors and fought under their banners as his father had done. This Sikh collaboration with the Mughal emperors did not end with the Guru; many of the Sikh principalities served under the later Mughals and gained from them titles and the right to strike coins. A religious movement that had Muslim influence, and accepted the political authority of the Mughal emperor, had no chance of spreading in the Rajput hill kingdoms which had resisted and defied the alien rule for centuries. As for the conflict between the Guru and the Raja of Bilaspur, the pre-eminent historian Jadunath Sarkar records that without any provocation, "He had a big war-drum made in imitation of the Mughal imperial band, while his troops insulted and robbed the subjects of his host, the Bilaspur hill-Rajah..."
In Persian the word Khalis means pure...but in the Indian context Khalsa referred to anything associated with the Mughal Emperors. The Sikh Gurus were termed true emperors and it is in this context that the name Khalsa was adopted by them.The Guru's follower Banda Singh Bahadur however openly defied the authority of the Mughal Emperor. He collected the dispersed Sikh bands and attacked Sarhind in 1710 to take revenge on Wazir Khan---Banda was eventually defeated and was forced to take shelter in Sirmaur. Guru Govind's widow and many other Sikhs remained on the side of the Mughals, even ex-communicating Banda on the charge of violating the basic edicts of Guru Govind Singh. He moved from place to place in the hills seeking military aid and reemerged at Pathankot and Gurdaspur, collected more fighters, and once again attacked Sarhind. Banda was finally overcome in 1716 by the Punjab Subahdar Abdus Samad Khan---his followers formed a separate sect of their own called the Bandai Sikhs.
Kahlur was the name of the state, of which Bilaspur was the capital. The ruling clan took its name from the state and was thus called Kahluria.
There is only a fleeting acknowledgement of the Sikhs in the documents of Aurangzeb's reign. One of his letters to his son Bahadur Shah, governor of Kabul, reads, "I learn...that nearly 20,000 Hindus, who call themselves the Khalsa of Govind the follower of Nanak, had assembled and gone to the country of the Barakzai (modern NWFP in Pakistan)...and that the Afghans of the neighborhood had fallen on them, so that the party had been killed or drowned. The Emperor orders that the prince (Bahadur Shah) should imprison these misbelievers, and expel them from that district.
In a letter (Zafarnama) sent to Aurangzeb the Guru, while maintaining a spirited tone, does not talk of overthrowing the Mughals. He taxes Aurangzeb for lacking a sense of justice and complains of the treachery and cruelty of Wazir Khan. The Guru is at pains to point out that his religion is different from that of the Rajas and that he himself was not an idol-worshipper. This could have been a tactical move to gain Aurangzeb's sympathy the Guru's primary objective was to ensure the safety of his own followers. In the same manner the first duty of the Kahlur Raja was to protect his subjects from the violence and depredations of outsiders.
But, as explained above, the Sikhs were not the only unruly element in the population of the Punjab. A Ranghar chief named Isa Khan had collected wealth and power through raids and highway robbery---he maintained his position by bribing the Mughal officers at Delhi. He was finally killed in a battle fought in 1718. Another notorious chief, Hussain Khan Keshgi of Kasur, was also defeated and killed by the governor Abdus Samad Khan. Zakariya Khan who succeeded his father to the governor's post defeated marauders like Panah Bhatti and Mir Mar in other parts of Punjab.
The states of the Jammu and Kangra hills had always been internally independent but now they were completely free of Mughal influence. The Raja of Jammu subdued his neighbors in the hills and obtained recognition for his gains by bribing the Mughal court. Similarly the Raja of Kangra recovered some of his territories from the Mughal Kiladar of Kangra fort and subjugated Chamba, Kulu and other states. These Rajas also raided the neighboring districts of the Punjab where they competed with ambitious Mughal officers and the numerous Sikh bands---the activities of these powers were completely overshadowed in 1739 by the appearance of a dangerous new enemy.
That is, the Governor of Punjab, or the Lahore subah. A province was termed Subah and the military governor was called the Subahdar. This term became the rank of JCOs in the British Indian Army.
This was recorded in a document still preserved in the State Archival Depository at Jammu wherein Muhammad Shah, Emperor of Delhi, in 1724 recognized Raja Dhruv Dev, on payment of nazrana and other conditions, as Raja of the Dogra Ilaqa (Dogra region).