29. The Battle of Bhangani
One day the Guru received an invitation from
Fateh Shah of Garhwal to his daughter's marriage with the son of Raja Bhim
Chand of Kahlur who nursed enmity with the Guru. He decided not to attend
the ceremony himself but sent his Dewan, Nand Chand and Daya Ram with costly
gifts for the princess.
The shortest route for the marriage party was
through Paunta Sahib; the Guru refused to give them the passage because he
had no faith in Bhim Chand who was accompanied by a large number of
soldiers. After a lot of negotiations, the Guru permitted the bridegroom and
a small number of his companions to cross the ferry near Paunta Sahib. The
rest of the party including Bhim Chand had to follow a circuitous route to
Srinagar, the capital of Garhwal state.
This happening made Bhim Chand very mad and he
began to look forward to the opportunity to give vent to his anger. He
became still more enraged when he learnt that Guru's envoy was present at
the bride's place to attend the marriage. Thus he refused to accept Fateh
Shah's daughter for his son, if he continued his friendship with the Guru.
Bhim Chand, therefore, asked Fateh Shah to choose between himself and the
Fateh Shah was obliged to yield. Nand Chand
and Daya Ram had to bring their presents back as a result. On their way back
Nand Chand and party were attacked by Bhim Chand's troops but they were able
to return safe and sound. After the marriage was over, Bhim Chand held a
conference with Fateh Shah and other hilly Rajas- Kirpal of Katoch, Gopal of
Guler, Hari Chand of Hadur and the Raja of Jaswal who were present there.
They all decided to attack the Guru on their way back.
The hilly Rajas ordered their troops to march
upon Paunta Sahib. The news of the impending attack came fast before the
army could move and so the Guru was not taken by surprise attack.
On the recommendation of Pir Budhu Shah, 500
Pathans were enlisted in the Guru's army under the command of five
chieftains- Kale Khan, Bhikan Khan, Nijabat Khan, Hyat Khan, and Umar Khan.
The Pathans became apprehensive of the scanty resources at the disposal of
the Guru and they all except Kale Khan with one hundred men, deserted the
Guru at the eleventh hour, and joined the hill Rajas. The Udasi Sadhus
except their chief Mahant Kirpal, also took to their heels.
The Guru informed Budhu Shah of the misconduct
of the Pathan soldiers. Pir Budhu Shah looked upon their behavior as a
personal disgrace. In order to compensate this loss, Budhu Shah accordingly
placed himself, his brother, his four sons and seven hundred disciples at
the Guru's disposal.
The Guru stationed his troops at an eminent
place near Bhangani village about six miles from Paunta Sahib. The five sons
of Bibi Viro- Sango Shah, Jit Mal, Gopal Chand, Ganga Ram and Mohri Chand
organized the attack for the Guru's forces. They were ably backed by Bhai
Daya Ram, Dewan Nand Chand, Guru's uncle Kirpal and Mahant Kirpal. While
repeating his orders the Guru buckled on his sword, slung his quiver over
his shoulders, took his bow in his hand, mounted his steed, and shouting
'Sat Sri Akal' in his loudest voice, proceeded to confront his enemies.
It is recorded that the hoofs of the Guru's
horse in their quick movement raised clouds of dust which obscured the sun,
and that the cheers of his men resembled thunder in the stormy and rainy
season. As mentioned Guru's forces were also joined by Pir Budhu Shah's
troops and one hundred Pathans under the command of Kale Khan.
The enemy forces were led by Raja Fateh Shah
who was joined by Raja Hari Chand of Hadur, Raja Gopal of Guler, Raja of
Chandel, Rajas of Dadhwal and Jaswal, and four hundred Pathans who had
deserted the Guru's side. A severe and bloody battle was raged. Many brave
soldiers were killed on both sides. Although the opposite army far
outnumbered the Guru's men, but they did not have the same spirit of
sacrifice, nor did they have the same devotion to their leaders, as the
Sikhs had. Mahant Kirpal hit Hayat Khan, Pathan chief, and killed the
Jit Mal and Raja Hari Chand engaged in a
single combat. The arrows lodged in their horses' foreheads and both horses
fell. After a short breath when their swords clashed, Hari Chand fell
fainting to the ground and Jit Mal dropped down dead. Sango Shah, another
cousin of the Guru, and Pathan chief Nijabat Khan were engaged and both fell
dead. Upon this the Guru mounted his charger and rode into the thick of the
combat. He discharged an arrow at Pathan leader Bhikan Khan.
It missed him but killed his horse, and Bhikan
Khan fled away. Upon this Nand Chand and Daya Ram launched a fierce attack
on the demoralized Pathans which resulted in great slaughter of the
treacherous Pathans. When the hillmen saw the defeat of the Pathans, they
began fleeing from the battle field. By this time Hari Chand regained his
conscious and reappeared on the scene and shot many brave men with his
arrows. On seeing this the Guru confronted Hari Chand and he describes the
combat in Bachitar Natak:
"Hari Chand, one of the hill chiefs, in his
rage drew forth the arrows. He struck my steed with one and then discharged
another at me, but God preserved me and it only grazed my ears in its
flight. His third Who protected me, His servant. When I felt the touch of
the arrow, my spirit was kindled. I took up my bow and taking aim killed the
young chief Hari Chand with my very first shot. I discharged arrows in
abundance. Upon this my adversaries began to flee. The chief of Korari was
also seized by death.
Upon this the hill men fled in consternation
and I, through the favor of God Almighty, gained the victory.
The Guru went to the site where lay the dead
bodies of Sangho Shah, Jit Mal and other brave Sikhs. Two sons of Budhu Shah
were also killed. The Guru ordered the slain on both sides be disposed of
with great honor. The bodies of the Sikhs were cremated, of the Hindus
thrown into the river and of the Muslims buried with all solemnity. Pir
Budhu Shah presented himself and his two surviving sons to the Guru. At that
time the Guru was combing his hair. Budhu Shah begged of him to give him the
comb with his loose hair as a sacred souvenir. The Guru gave him the turban,
the comb with hair and a small sword. The greatest gift of all, the Guru
blessed him with Nam.
Significance of the battle of Bhangani :
The victory in the battle of Bhangani was of
far reaching importance. It uplifted the spirit and strengthened the moral
of the Sikhs. Since the Guru did not acquire even an inch of the territory
or gained any material advantage, the cause he championed, received added
strength. His fame spread far and wide with the result that the supply of
arms and horses to the Guru increased abundantly and hundreds and hundreds
of persons offered themselves to be enlisted in his army.
The Guru's victory also did not go without
causing concern to the Mughal rule at Delhi. The hilly Rajas also viewed the
whole issue afresh. Although the Rajas and the Guru were poles apart in
ideology, yet the Rajas being goaded by their self-interest of thwarting the
Mughals over lordship and thus to be relieved of the burdens of payment of
annual tributes to the Mughal Emperor, wanted cordial relations with the
Guru. Therefore, their leader Raja Bhim Chand entered into agreement with