14. Bhai Sukha Singh
Sukha Singh (1752), eighteenth century Sikh warrior and martyr, was born at Mari Kamboke, in Amritsar district, in a family of carpenters of the Kalsi clan. As a small boy, he had heard with great fascination stories of Sikhs' daring and sacrifice in those days of fierce persecution. Although his parents, in order to restrain his enthusiasm, got him married when he was barely 12, he visited Amritsar to receive khande di pahul, the vows of the Khalsa, and began to entertain fugitive Sikhs in his home. His parents, apprehensive of the government's wrath, one day cut off his hair as he lay asleep. Sukkha Singh on waking up felt so disturbed at this sacrilege that he decided to put an end to his life, and jumped into a well. He resisted the people's effort to pull him out, until a Sikh who was passing by advised him that it was sheer cowardice and a sin for a Sikh to take his own life. Sukkha Singh allowed himself to be helped out, regrew his kesa and joined the jatha or band of Sardar Sham Singh. He acquired uncommon skill in the use of weapons of war and won his comrades' admiration for his boldness and powers of endurance. Once taking up the challenge thrown by Qazi 'Abd urRahman, the kotwal of Amritsar, to the Sikhs to come, if they 'dared, for a dip in their holy pool, Sukkha Singh went to Amritsarin broad daylight, made his ablutions and, loudly declaring who he was, rode away to the safety of the woods. An immediate pursuit led by the infuriated Qazi resulted in an encounter with the Sikhs in which the Qazi himself was killed. Sukkha Singh accompanied Matab Singh to Amritsar in August 1740 to chastize the notorious Massa Khan Ranghar, the successor of the Qazi 'Abd urRahman as kotwal. This further enhanced Sukkha Singh's popularity among the Khalsa and he soon became the leader of a separate jatha. of his own. Early in 1746, he and Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluvalia pushed northwards and entered the Eminabad territory in Gujranwala district where they were attacked by the local jagirdar, Jaspat Rai, brother of Lakhpat Rai, the diwan of Yahiya Khan, the governor of Lahore. Jaspat Rai was killed in the encounter. This led to the vengeful Lakhpat Rai's relentless campaign against the Sikhs ending on 1 May 1746 in what is known in Sikh history as a Ghallughara or holocaust. During this fateful battle, Sukkha Singh's leg was fractured by a direct hit from an enemy swivel. He immediately tied his leg to his saddle with his own turban and continued to fight and lead his men across the Rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. It was three days later, after he had taken the survivors of the Ghallughara to the safety of the sandy desert of Malva, that he got his injury properly dressed. Taking advantage of the civil war between the sons of Zakariya Khan. which commenced in November 1746, the Sikhs recrossed the Sutlej and converged on Amritsar. Sukkha Singh, then camping at Jaito, joined them too. He raided Sarai Noordin, Sarigharkot, Majitha, and Chhina. At the last named village he killed in a duel Karma Chhina, a notorious informer who had been responsible for the arrest and execution of many of the Sikhs. He also joined the Dal Khalsa in their raid on the camp of Ahmad Shah Durrani at Serai Noordin during the latter's first invasion of India early in 1748. In 1749, when disturbed by the rebellion of Shah Nawaz Khan of Multan, Mu'in ulMulk, the governor of Lahore, sought the assistance of the Sikhs, Sukkha Singh and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia turned out to join the campaign in which Shah Nawaz Khan was killed. Having thus overcome the Multan rebellion, Mu'in ulMulk resumed his policy of persecution with redoubled vigour, forcing the Sikhs once again to seek safety in their jungle haunts. Early in 1752, as Sukkha Singh and his Jatha lay in the forest along the River Ravi north of Lahore, Ahmad Shah Durrani came out leading his third invasion into India and camped at Shahdara preparatory to an attack on the Punjab capital. Sukkha Singh, out on a foraging expedition north of the river, encountered a strong body of enemy troops. A fierce action took place in which Sukkha Singh and his men died fighting to a man. This was sometime during the first half of January 1752.