Legendary Sikh Battle of Gurusar 1631
The Battle of Gurusar was the third battle fought by Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji near Mehraj with Lala Beg and Qamar Beg in 1631. Despite overwhelming odds, the mughals were completely crushed in this battle.
The mughals had a 35,000 strong army while Guru Hargobind’s side only numbered 4,000. The battle was fought during winter season and Guru Ji had pre-planned everything. Because the mughals were not fully acquainted to the conditions of the area they had not planned well for the battle. According to Piara Singh Padam, the battle took place in 1634 but according to Giani Gian Singh the battle occured in 1631; this date appears to be more acceptable.
Reason for Conflict
Guru Hargobind Sahib retired to the semi desert wastelands of Batinda. While leaving Amritsar for the Malwa region, the sixth Sikh Guru took Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji with him but after making stopping for sometime at Daroli he sent Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to Kartarpur along with his family. Soon after this, an incident occurred involving two horses, between the Guru and the Subehdar of Lahore.
Once the Sangat from Kabul and Peshawar was coming to meet the Guru. Bhai Bakhat Mall, Bhai Tara Chand, Bhai Dyal Chand were leading the congregation with other masands. According to “Twarikh Guru Khalsa”, the sangat totalled between 1,000 to 1,200 in number.
There was a famous horse trader and devotee of Guru Sahib in the congregation named Seth Karhorhi Mall. He was a dedicated and important devotee of the Guru in the Afgan territory. He had raised and trained two magnificent horses which he intended to give to the Guru. The horses, on their journey to the Guru’s Darbar had drawn many admirers on their trip across the Punjab and many wealthy men had tried to convince Bhai Karorhi Mall to part with the horses by offering him a princely sum. However, Bhai Karorhi Mall always replied that these were not his horses but that the horses belonged to the Guru.
Before reaching Lahore, rumours of their beauty had reached the Mughal governor’s ears. An avid collector of horses he too offered the young Sikh a small fortune for each horse, only to be turned down. So before the sangat (congregation) left Lahore, the Subedar’s henchmen forcibly snatched the magnificent horses and took them to the governor’s stable area, in the upper courtyard of Lahore Fort. The governor also gave a cheque of Rs. 5,000 to Karhorhi Mall.
Seth became very sad and with his sad face the congregation went to Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Goindwal, Khadoor, etc.; crossing Harike they reached village Sudhar (known as Gurusar Sudhar today) where the Guru sahib was residing at the time. After meeting Guru sahib the whole congregation was delighted but Seth Karhorhi Mall was sad, he kept the cheque given by Qamas Beig and cried that the horses which had belonged to his Guru had been snatched by the Mughal governer in Lahore. Guru Sahib said they will teach a lesson to such people who have high authorities but do not give proper consideration to the poor people and subject of the nation. Guru ji asked Seth ji not to worry and that his donation of the horses had been accepted by the Guru’s darbar and the horses would return to their correct place soon.
The Recovery of Dilbagh and Gulbagh
Bhai Bidhi Chand recovering a horse
Image depicting Bhai Bidhi Chand recovering a horse from Lahore fort
When the matter came to the attention of Guru Sahib he asked if there were any among his Court who could think of a way to recover the horses. Bhai Bidhi Chand, a daring disciple, who before becoming a Sikh was a noted thief, offered his services and asked for Guru’s grace.
Bhai sahib, put in place a long planned action which did not involve any bloodshed. However, some people questioned the wisdom of his plan. But perhaps this was the right way to deal with the wrongful actions of the mighty chieftains of the Mughals, without harming anybody.
Bhai Bidhi Chand, under the guise of a grass cutter, went to Lahore to offer his services at the stable. He was successful in his initial mission and managed to obtain permission to work as a stable-hand responsible for arranging the delivery of grass for the horses. After about 3 to 4 months he was employed on a permanent basis specifically to care for the two horses. After he had gained the trust of the whole staff, he offered a party to the whole staff at the fort. By the night, when all were completely drunk, he took one of the horses and reached Amritsar.
The remaining horse soon grew despondent and refused to eat. He obviously missed his companion. Soon the Nawab’s officials sought the help of a fortune teller who might be able to recover the ‘stolen’ horse. So disguising himself as a fortune teller, Bhai Bidhi Chand once again offered his services. He convinced the authorities that he had to re-enact a similar scenario , in order to give them the whereabouts of the missing steed.
The baffled officials created a similar situation allowing Bhai Bidhi Chand to mount the remaining horse. He then yelled out that he was the former grass cutter, as he and the horse leaped over the low wall of the court yard to the river Ravi. (the river at that time ran alongside the fort) Riding on to return to Amritsar, where the two horses were reunited. Seth Karhorhi Mall’s gift of Dilbagh and Gulbagh had reached Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, it rightful owner.
The officials in Lahore could only laugh at their folly.
Preparations for Battle
Bhai Rai Jodh knew the area very well. Guru sahib asked Bhai Rai Jodh to suggest the place, where their small force would able to fight with a larger force with some hope of winning. Rai Jodh suggested that their best chance would be to mount their defence at his fort, but guru ji said he wanted to act in a battlefield.
Then Bhai Rai Jodh suggested a site, “5 km from here there’s the village of Nathana and about 3km from Nathana was the village of Mehraj, which had a very thick forest full of wild, rambling trees on it’s south eastern side with two water reservoirs nearby (one was called the Kalu Nath Di Ganga). As there was no other source of water for about 20-30km’s, it seemed to be most strategic spot to camp. The Guru had about 2400 soldiers, joined by the 500 “pongos” of Rai Jodh, with his uncle Chacha Ugarsein and 500 soldiers of Salem Shah who was also a devotee of the Guru bringing the grand total to about 4000 soldeirs. Bhai Rai Jodh, Bhai Salem Shah and Chacha Ugarsen were ready to participate and they had control over the two reservoirs.
The names of some of the Sikhs who took part in the battle, are recorded in historical accounts; Bhai Jetha, Bhai Manjh, Bai Meetoo, Bhai Bhoma, Bhai Katara, Bhai Bhagoo, Bhai Bhaga, Bhai Bidhi Chand, Bhai Jaita. As the Mughal force would take four days to reach the place, the Sikhs used the time to get ready for the coming battle. The sangat of Malwa was supplying resources to the Sikh army including meals and supplies to help to keep them warm in the cool season. The Sikh forces under the command of Rai Jodh and Kirt Bhatt camped near one of the water reservoir.
The Subedar of Kabul, Lala Beg and his brother Qamar Beig was ready with 35,000 forces. Some generals named in the historical accounts were Kabuli Beig, Ismaiyali Khan, Nahar Khan, Zalam Khan, Shamash beig, etc. It’s said that Shah Jahan ordered these generals to attack the Guru’s forces. The Mughal fauj (army) was also joined by Rajputs of Raikot and the Rangarhs of Aandru and Halwara.
To keep his eyes on Guru Sahib’s comings and goings Lala Beig had sent Hassan Khan to spy on Guru Sahib. Khan had atttired himself as a Sikh and entered in guru’s fauj (army). Recognizing Khan as an enemy spy, Bhai Rai Jodh had Khan arrested and presented before Guru Sahib.
Instead of punishing him Guru Sahib sent him back telling him to let Lala Beig know that they were ready for the Mughal attack and to inform him about all of the Sikh preparations and positions. Hassan Khan told Lala Beig all the locations and preparations of guru’s army and also said that Guru Sahib was a fearless warrior and he was ready to bear any attack. After hearing Khan’s Praise of Guru Sahib, Lala Beig called him an infidel and threw him out of his army. Hassan khan returned to guru sahib with a sad face and told him how Lala Beig had treated him. Guru sahib blessed him, telling him that he would soon be the subedar of Kabul instead of Lala Beig.
Arrival to Mehraj
The Army marched towards Mehraj, crossed the Satluj, Moga, Gill and other villages. Along the march, the army forcibly took food from villages (millet pudding, millet chapatis etc). However, even the water was saline in the area, so most of the soldiers were falling ill. As it was winter, a cool breeze was blowing, so the soldiers were feeling demoralised. The army arrived at Mehraj feeling tired and weary. The Mughal army knew the water reservoir was under the control of the Guru so they decided to go to a place called Korhiyan ki Marhi where a saudagar had a well. The army was on the move towards the well at dawn.
The scene depicted in Gurpartap Suraj Granth about battle depicted below:
The weather was cool and a breeze was blowing. The Sikhs were weather ready and warm. The Gurus force was in form of jathas (groups) waiting for the enemies. When they saw the Mughal forces, the Sikhs waged a guerilla attack on the Mughal forces at night, which resulted in heavy causalities in the Mughals. Brouhaha guns were used by the Gurus forces and the mughals were being cut down.
Nawab Lala Beg ordered his troops to fire the Mashaal (a wooden top on fire) and saw that Sikh forces were advancing. Lala Beg ordered his brother Qamarbeg Khan and 7000 soldiers to fight and ordered the other generals to stay in reserve and make camps.
Gurdwara Sri Gurusar Sahib Mehraj
Gurdwara Sri Gurusar Sahib Mehraj where Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji Camped
The supply carts which were loaded with food, clothes, beds etc. stopped and soldiers began warming themselves around fires. The generals in reserve also started warming themselves. While the 7000 Mughal soldiers were pressing their attack, Bhai Rai Jodh Shah sent his brother Salem Shah with 500 soldiers to defend the Sikhs.
The Mughal soldiers that were fighting with Sikhs were feeling the cold and being cut down. Lala Beg ordered Qamar Beg to continue leading his force, Qamar beg thought that he could destroy the Sikhs and arrest the Guru in the night.
After an intense battle, there was confusion which saw the mughals attack their own. Many mughal soldiers fled in retreat. Qamar Beg reported back to Lala Beg that many of his soldiers had desertedand others had been killed. Lala Beg decided to resume the battle on the following day.
On the next day, Lala Beg and Qamar Beg approached with a force of more than 8000 soldiers including warriors like Gull and Bhikhan Khan, who helped them win many battles. Guns were made ready with gunpowder and Bhai Rai Jodh and his troops attacked.
The confidence of the Sikh warriors was increasing while watching the corpses of the mughals mounted. The Guru’s army was well supplied. The Sikhs stored firewood and were receiving langar from the nearest villages.
There were approx 2000 Sikhs. As night approached Lala Beg was told the his second attack had failed. He discussed plans with his general (and nephew) Kabuli Beg, to attack the following day as it was too dark at night.
However Qasam Beg and Shamash Beg (son of Lala Beg) decided to attack at night, so with a force of 10,000 Qasam Beg, Shamash Beg, Kabuli Beg, Kamar Beg, Gul Khan and Bhikhan Khan attacked.
The night was dusty due to a localised sandstorm and, in the poor light, this caused confusion . Bidhi Chand joined the battle with 1000 Sikhs and attacked with force, Bhai Jetha, Bhai Meetoo, Bhai Manjh, Bhai Bhoma all faught like lions. 25,000 of the mughal army lay dead or had deserted. The corpses were lying on top of each other. The land was like a red curtain, countless swords and nejas of the dead were lying down.
When Lala Beg saw most of his troops defeated, in anger, he attacked with his remaining soldiers. The Sikhs remaining army with Bhai Rai Jodh, Chacha Ugarsen joined the battle. When Guru Ji saw the mughals attacking again, he too joined the battle. Hassan Khan told Guru Ji where Lala Beg, Kamarbeg Khan, Kabuli Beg, Shamsh Beg, Kasam Beig and Hassan Khan were.
Guru Ji took aim with his bow and his arrow took the crown of Lala Beg off his head. The mughal army viewed this as a bad omen. When the opposing soldiers saw Guru Ji, they feared him. Bhai Rai Jodh, Salem Shah and Bhai Bidhi Chand joined the battle with all their remaining forces.
Gurdwara Sri Shaheed Ganj Khooh
Gurdwara Sri Shaheed Ganj Khooh where last rites of Sikh corpses were performed
Guru Ji was with Hassan Khan and firing arrows when Kabuli beg moved toward Guru Sahib. They first fought with arrows, then swords and hand to hand. Kabuli attacked Guru Ji and wounded him. In return Guru Ji attacked with a sword and killed him. Bhai Jodh Shah put a wet a cloth on Guru Ji and attacked Qamar Beg. Qamar wounded Bhai Rai Jodh but Bhai Rai Jodh killed him after a quick fight. It is said that Bhai Rai Jodh was so strong that he put his sword into Qamar, lifted him up and threw him before Guru Ji. Bhalan killed Qasim Beg and Shamsh Beg was also killed.
When all the relatives of Lala Beg were killed other generals like Ismail khan, Abdali zalam khan, Nahar khan, Habshi khan etc continued to attack. The Sikhs fighting them were Salem Shah, Bidhi Chand, Chaudhari Choharh, Bhai Dulat, Bhai Jetha (guru’s lion), Bhai Bhagta, Bhai Nanda, Bhai Singha etc. Guru Ji was wounded but he fought with Lala Beg and cut him into two with the jaikara Jai bolo baba nanak ji ki.
Other generals like Habshi were killed by Bhalan Brar, Gulbeg khan was killed by Bidhi Chand, Ismail khan was killed by Rai Lal, Behlol khan was killed by Bhai Jaita, other turks fled and deserted.
The Sikhs routed and defeated the enemy. Guru Sahib lost 1200 Saint Soldiers including Kirt Bhatt Ji and Bhai Jetha Ji. On the other side Sameer Beg and his two sons Shams Beg and Qasim Beg were also killed. The Mughal forces fled to Lahore leaving behind the dead and wounded. The Sikhs did not intercept the fleeing enemy. Guru Sahib built a tank called Gurusar commemorating the victory. Near the village of Nathane Guru Sahib defeated another encounter with a Mughal force.
Guru Ji gave all the weapons of the mughals in battlefield to Bhai Rai Jodh, and applied bandages to wounded soldiers. Guru Ji and his sikhs also applied ointment to their wounds.
Bhai Jetha, Bhai Manjh, Bhai Bhoma, Bhai Meetoo, Bhai Kataru and Bhai Bhoora and other sikhs corpses were martyred, the final total was approx 1273. Guru Ji ordered sangat to dig a deep well and buried all the muslim’s bodies. Then Guru Ji cremated the Sikh dead by his own hands.
Lala Beg’s sword was stolen by someone and Guru Sahib said that possession of the sword was cursed and would not let the owner live.