6. Bhai Bota Singh & Garja
Singh (1739), an
eighteenth century martyr of the Sikh faith who belonged to the village of
Amritsar district. In those days of dire
persecution, he along with many fellow Sikhs had sought the safety of wastes
and jungles. At nightfall, he would come out of his hiding place and visit
some human habitations in search of food. Occasionally he would come to
Amritsar by night to have a dip in the holy tank, spending the day in the
Tarn Taran. One day he was noticed by some
people who thought he was a Sikh.
one of the party said that he was not a Sikh, for had he been one he would
not conceal himself thus. The taunt cut Bota Singh to the quick. Accompanied
by his companion
Garja Singh, a
Rarighreta Sikh, and with a bamboo club in
his hand, he took up position on the grand trunk road, near
Sarai Nur udDin, near Tarn Taran. To
announce his presence and proclaim the sovereignty of the
Khalsa, he started collecting toll from the
passersby. Finding everyone submitting tamely to his authority, he sent a
communication to the provincial governor himself.
The words of the letter, as preserved in
Punjabi folklore, were:
Chitthi likhi Singh Bota :
Hath hai sota, Vich rah khalota Anna laya gadde nu, Paisa laya khota. Akho
Bhabi Khano nu, Yon akhe Singh Bota.
Bota Singh writes this letter as:
With a big club in hand, On
the road do I stand. I levy an anna on a cart And a pice on a donkey. This,
tell your sister, Khano, who is my sister-in-law, Is what Bota Singh
wife of the
Mughal governor is burlesqued here using
her popular name "Khano." Bota Singh calls her his bhabi, i.e. brother's
wife with whom one could be familiar (see without Purda, etc.).
Khan, the governor, sent a
contingent of one hundred horse under
Jalal Din to arrest Bota Singh alive and
bring him to Lahore. Jalal Din asked Bota Singh and Garja Singh to surrender
and accompany him to Lahore, promising to secure them the governor's pardon.
Bota Singh and his comrade spurned the offer and fell fighting valiantly
against heavy odds. This happened in 1739.
BHAI BOTA SINGH
Bota Singh was from the Taran Taaran area and had been separated from the
main Jatha of Singhs. Bhai Bota Singh was an unmarried Singh who was very
strict in his rehit. He was a sevak of the Satguru and in his heart he was a
true warrior with absolutely no fear. He was true to every word that he
was amrit vela and Bhai Bota Singh had left his hiding place in the jungle
and was quietly walking out. The day had not dawned yet and two travellers
on the road saw this solitary Singh. They wondered aloud if he was truly a
Singh. They were stunned to see a Singh after such a long time and one of
posed the questian, "How did this Singh remain alive? How did he survive
this long? No, he must be a fake. No Singhs can be found anywhere now, since
the Mughals wiped them out."
second traveller replied, "It must be some coward, who is weak and afraid.
The Singhs were a very proud people and didn't go about in hiding. The
Khalsa used to fight the Mughals everyday. The Khalsa was never afraid of
death. How could this man be a real Khalsa if he has been hiding for so
long, in the fear of being killed? The real Khalsa used to cause havoc and
chaos for the enemy and would sacrifice his head for the sake of others.
This can be no Khalsa."
SACRIFICE TO AWAKEN THE PANTH
Bota Singh heard these words and stopped in his tracks. His feet were
planted firmly in the ground. He had heard this entire conversation with
close attention. Their words were like the bite of a snake for him. Hearing
these words, Bhai Bota Singh reached a firm conclusion: "There is no option
now, but for me to sacrifice my head. If I sacrifice my head the people will
again say "Indeed! The Singhs live!" and news of my battle will travel
across the Punjab.
world will know that the Khalsa lives and the Khalsa too will be inspired to
re-start its battle against the enemy. I will fight my battle on the main
road. When I give my head, the Mughals will be disgraced for having attacked
a lone Singh with such cowardice and the talk of the Khalsa will start and
the Khalsa will rise again! Once the Khalsa lays its claim to the rule of
this land and we will seize this land back from the enemy."
SETTING UP OF A CHECKPOINT
Taran Taaran there is a place called Noordeen Dee Saraa(n). Many travellers,
businessmen and merchants used to come to this place and on the way there
was a major intersection which all had to pass through. Bhai Bota Singh went
to this intersection and planted some logs in the ground and made a
checkpoint. He announced that no traveller could pass through this place
without first paying him the Khalsa's Royal Tax.
Singh name Bhai Mota Singh (known in other places as Bhai Garja Singh) also
joined in with Bota Singh. The two Singhs, with not a Sikh having been seen
for months now, made their checkpoint and began to create a commotion by
yelling at travellers, "OI!!! STOP!! You have to pay the Khalsa's tax!"
Everyone was shocked to see Singhs standing out in the open after such a
long time. The travellers would rudely reply that they paid their taxes only
to the government and who were they (the Singhs) to take money from them?
all, the Singhs were now a powerless bunch with no authority over them. The
Singhs hearing these words would punish the travellers' insolence by beating
the travellers with their massive sticks. "Now tell us! Will you pay or
not?" The travellers would be forced to pay the tax. Chaos erupted all
around the main road and news began to spread about the two Khalsas and
their roadblock and claims of authority.
two Singhs thus made extra efforts to cause a commotion so that news of
their tax-collection would be sure to reach the Mughal government. But quite
some time passed and no Mughal army came. Many people came and paid their
taxes and some even came to make requests like they would to a genuine
ruler. When no reply came from the government, the Singhs decided to write a
letter to the Governor, which would cause him to burn with fury.
Bota Singh was from the same village as Navaab Kapoor Singh jee and in this
village, the Governor's older sister Khaano was married. She was married to
Farzulla Khan who intensely hated the Khalsa. What better way to irk the
Governor than to mention the name of his sister? In an insult to the
governor, Bhai Bota Singh decided to call Khaano "Bhabee" i.e. sister in law
since she was married into his village. Bhai Bota Singh wrote to the
Governor, "I have a big stick in my hand and stand on the road to Noordeen
Dee Saraa(n). I charge one paisa for a donkey and 4 paisas (one anna) for a
cart. Tell Bhabee Khaano, Bota Singh says this."
THE ARMY ARRIVES
mention of the Governor's sister of course infuriated him. He immediately
dispatched the army. When the army arrived, one Singh was manning the
checkpoint and the other was walking towards the jungle with a gaRvaa in his
hand. Seeing the army approach, he turned back right away.
Singhs yelled a loud Fateh to the army and challenged them. "OI! Come here!
Where are you going? Make sure you pay the tax!"
Singhs had kirpaans in their gaatraas and big sticks in their hands. The
left their checkpoint and stood on the road now. The Commander of the army
saw them and yelled back, "Singhs! Don't fight and die today. Come with us
to Lahore. Bota Singh! Come with us and we'll arrange a meeting with the
Governor for you. The Governor will spare your life and release you."
Singhs replied, "When did we ever want to save our lives? We want to battle!
You say you'll spare our lives, but we stand here prepared to die. We are
anxious for death today. Stop with your talk, get off your horses and fight
us so we can be martyred. You can use whatever weapons you want, we'll use
our sticks only. Donít worry, what harm can we do to you with our sticks? We
just want to know how much courage you will show on the battlefield and how
much courage we have to fight you."
Commander again tried, "Why bother with all this Bota Singh? There is no
need for any of this, just come with us. We'll have the Khan Bahadur speak
with you in his court."
Singhs replied, "There is no talk left between us and you. There is no
compromise between us. We're not here to negotiate. We'll go to the court of
Dharam Rai and say what we want there. We don't have any need for your
court. The only relationship we can have now is of exchanging weapon blows.
THE BATTLE BEGINS
Singhs were anxious for martyrdom and could wait no longer as the Commander
thought of a reply. They called out, "If you will not make any attack, then
we are coming to you. Don't say we didnít warn you. Prepare yourselves!" And
with this, the Singhs fell upon the Mughals like lions. They sprinted
towards the army and began to swing their weapons.
Mughals were mounted on horses and retreated away from the Singhs. Seeing
the retreat, the Singhs began to throw rocks at the soldiers. The Mughals
were anxious to save their lives and had taken their horses far away and
were terrified to see how fearlessly the two Khalsa stood before them.
Mughals began to fire arrows and bullets from far away, but the Singhs would
run towards them caring nothing for their own bodies. Bhai Bota Singh and
Bhai Mota Singh were suffering many injuries but not slowing down. As arrows
and bullets hit their bodies, they became even more excited. They kept
charging at the retreating Mughals. Sometimes they would make a small leap
forward and sometimes make a giant leap.
Mughals then decided to run the Singhs down with their horses. They made a
charge towards them and as the horses threw the two Khalsa down, they would
immediately rise again. Seeing that the Singhs were still not using any
dangerous weapons, the Mughals grew more confident and their fear lessened.
They were now eager to kill the Singhs.
weapons struck their bodies, Bhai Mota Singh and Bhai Bota Singh showed no
pain. Their bodies had become hardened because of their time in the jungles
and their skin was as taut and strong as a shield. Only when a blow would
fall upon a bone and break it would they feel some fatigue. When an arrow
would pierce their bodies, the Singhs would pull it out and throw it aside
with disgust. Making sure the Mughals could clearly see them, they would
tear out the arrow and yell "Your arrows are useless! They cannot pierce our
Mughals now drew their swords and attacked. The Singhs stopped the sword
blows with their staffs and stood back to back to face the enemy. As the
enemy ran horses upon them, they would hit the horses with their massive
sticks and turn them away. The Mughals were forced to abandon their horses
and advance on foot. The enemy would try to block the staff blows with their
shields but were growing tired from the force. The ornamental flowers and
markings on their shields had all been smashed off. The Mughals were
beginning to see that their attempts were futile.
Mughals again retreated and this time drew their guns. They fired burst upon
burst at the two warriors and wherever the bullets hit, they would smash a
bone. The Mughals fired at the Singh's hands and broke the hands they held
their staffs with. The Singhs then grabbed their staffs with their left
hands. The Mughals managed to break the Singhs' hips with their bullets and
made them lame. The bullets then broke the Singhs' legs and they fell to the
Mughals now called out, "Now put your hands together and beg for
forgiveness! Admit you have made a mistake! We will spare your lives and not
kill you if you stand with your hands clasped together. You'll have to
become Muslims, but we will spare you."
Singhs heard these words and looked at each other. They grabbed a hold of
the other's shoulder and rose. They now stood back to back on one leg. They
again called out a challenge to the Mughals.
Mughals were confused. There stood two utterly smashed bodies, standing on
only one leg each. What were they thinking? The Mughals again approached and
their commander who ordered them not to fire. "They only have one leg and
one hand each. Tackle them to the ground and subdue them!"
the Mughals came near, the Singhs forcefully began to swing their heavy
staffs with their left hands and smashed the enemy's heads. Blood poured
from the Mughal soldiers' noses and mouths. Streams of blood began to flow.
They smashed many enemy soldiers' heads and again fell exhausted to the
Mughals had run back in retreat once again. The two Khalsa were lying on the
ground with no bone intact. And then the unimaginable happened. The Singhs
propped themselves up and on their knees and elbows began to advance towards
the enemy again. They glared at the Mughals and would not look away or
blink. With their intense gaze they continued their approach. They had no
hope for life any longer. Their faces were glowing red. The Mughals were
terrified that these two beasts may stand again. The entire army fell upon
them and cut their bodies into pieces. The two Singhs were martyred and
joined their brothers and sisters in SachKhand.
news of the Khalsa's bravery again spread across the Punjab. The people
began to remark that perhaps the Khalsa had not been finished after all. Who
could finish warriors like this? The bravery of Bhai Bota Singh and Bhai
Mota Singh shocked not only the people but also the Mughals. News spread to
the Khalsa in hiding and they too were inspired to rise again. Bhai Bota
Singh and his tax collection was a reminder that Punjab was the Khalsa's
land. They would seize it back from the enemy. The Khalsa began to regroup
again and prepare for battle.
Bota Singh and Bhai Mota Singh's Shaheedee inspired the entire Panth and
struck fear into the heart of the enemy. Are there not any Bhai Bota Singh
or Bhai Mota Singh today who will wake up the Panth from its slumber again ?