Articles: Sikh Martyrs:
Shaheed Ganj, Lahore
Shaheed Ganj, Lahore
Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, preached the equality
of humanity. He taught his disciples to "see" God in every
human being. To put his philosophy into practice, he started the
institutions of sangat and pangat where all people would sit together,
pray together, and eat together without any kind of discrimination.
All people, Hindus, Muslims, and so-called low castes loved the Guru as
their own. To express the love of the people for Guru Nanak, a folk
rhyme, Nanak Shah Fakir, Hindu Ka Guru, Musalman Ka Pir, became popular
with the masses. By the time of Guru Amar Das, Sikhism became a mass
The government started worrying lest the people get themselves
organized under the guidance of the Guru and revolt against their rule
of injustice. It was under this fear, that Guru Arjan Dev was arrested,
tortured and murdered in 1606. From then on, state terrorism continued
against the Sikhs even beyond the middle of the 18th century. The
strength of the Khalsa and the faith of the people in the righteousness
of the Sikhs, however, went on increasing as the terrorism against them
was intensified by the government. Finally, the people did throw
away the cruel rule and welcomed the Khalsa government lead by Maharaja
Ranjit Singh over northwest India. The Sikhs, though, did not make
even 10% of the population at that time.
This sakhi belongs to the period of Mir Mannu, Governor
of Lahore (1748 -1753). During that period the looting, torturing and killing
of Sikhs was made legal and the killers were rewarded by the government.
The Punjab was attacked for the third time by Ahmed Shah Abdali, the ruler
of Afghanistan, in December 1751. Mannu was defeated and the province
of Punjab was taken over by the Afghans from the Delhi Emperor. Kaura
Mal, a Minister of Mannu, but a friend of the Sikhs was killed in the battle.
Thus, the only link between misldars (Sikh chiefs) and Mannu was lost.
Nobody was left to hold Mannu from executing his evil ideas and ill motives
against the Sikhs.
When Mannu was busy with Abdali, Sikhs consolidated their
hold on the areas under their control. This irritated Mannu very
much. Further, the frustration of his defeat at the hands of Abdali
was converted into anger against the Sikhs. He sent army bands to
hunt the Sikhs, catch them or kill them.
March 1753, the commander of Jallandhar lead his army on the Sikhs and
killed a great many of them gathering for Hola Mahalla at Anandpur.
Mannu attacked Ram Rauni, a fort of Sikhs at Amritsar. He blew up
the fort and killed all the 900 Sikhs there. Army bands were sent
out to search and kill Sikhs. Skirmishes between the roving bands
and the Sikh jathas were a common occurrence.
The sympathy of the people was with the Sikhs but the
control of the army was in the hands of Mannu. It was not difficult
for the Sikhs to dodge the army men and move to inaccessible places in
the jungles or into sedges along the river beds. Not finding the
Sikhs in their houses and not being able to follow them to their hiding
places, the army men would pick up their women and children. They
were brought to Lahore, tortured and murdered in cold blood in Nakhas market
Miskin, personal attendant of Mannu, has given an eyewitness
account of the violence against the Sikhs, in the following words:
appointed most of his soldiers to the task of chastising the Sikhs.
They ran after these wretches up to 28 Kos (a Kos is approximately one
and a half miles) in a day and slew them wherever they stood up to oppose
them. Everyone who brought Sikh heads to Mannu received a reward
of Rupees 10 per head. Anyone who brought a horse belonging to a
Sikh could keep it as his own. Whosoever lost his own horse by chance
in the fight with the Sikhs got another in its place from the government
Sometimes Mannu himself rode a horse and went hunting for
Sikhs. Once, when his men fired a volley on Sikhs hiding in a sugarcane
field, his horse got scared. It suddenly jumped up and ran away.
Mannu fell from his horse, but his foot got caught in the saddle.
Dragged by his horse, Mannu lost his life.
The persons who brought Sikhs alive or their heads or
their horses received prizes. The Sikhs who were captured alive were
sent to hell by being beaten with wooden mallets. At times Adina
Beg Khan sent 40 or 50 Sikh captives from Doab Jallandhar. They were
as a rule killed with the strokes of wooden hammers.
Inhuman tortures were given to the Sikh women and children
brought to Lahore to force them to change their faith. Not a single
person submitted to the cruel government. All of them, without sorrow,
suffered all kinds of pain and death.
The women were kept hungry and forced to grind grain by
working heavy stone mills. The minimum ration was given to them so
that they did not die of hunger, but were able to keep on living and suffering
tortures. To break their will and high spirits, they were made to
watch their children being thrown up in the air to fall back on the sharp
blades of spears. Children pierced through by the spears were cut
into pieces and put as a necklace around the necks of their mothers.
The dogs were permitted to eat their flesh before the eyes of their helpless
mothers. These great women bore all this without even a sigh on their
The martyrdom and unparalleled sacrifices of the great
Sikh women and their children are remembered by Sikhs in their prayer:
"Let us remember the women who suffered in the
jail of Mannu, remained hungry, worked heavy stone mills, watched their
children being pierced by the spears and got their body pieces around their
necks ... keeping their sacrifices in mind let all of us hail them and
In memory of those martyrs, there now stands Gurdwara Shaheed
Sikhs, while undergoing all these cruelties kept their
morale and spirits high. To express there feelings, there is a folk
saying of that period:
We are like plants and Mannu a sickle, all know.
The more he cuts us, the more we grow.
As an outcome of these sacrifices for human rights,
people developed a great regard for the Sikhs and nursed sincere sympathy
for them. Finally, the tyrannical rule ended and with the support
of the masses, the Sikhs became the rulers of the state.