5. Khalsa, the saviors of the innocent

Abdali returned from Delhi in March 1761 with lots of gold and more than 2,000 beautiful, young girls as prisoners. The Sikhs decided to save these innocent girls. Jassa Singh formulated a strategy. When Abdali was crossing the river Beas, the Sikhs swiftly fell upon them. They freed the women prisoners and escorted them back to their homes. The people felt that the Sikhs deserved to be the rulers of the Punjab. They alone could protect the people and their honor from the invaders. The Sikhs took over Lahore in September of 1761, after Abdali returned to Kabul. They parceled it up among themselves and minted their coins in the name of Guru Nanak Dev. Sikhs, as rulers of the city, received full cooperation from the people. Jassa Singh was given the title of Sultanul Kaum. Ahmed Shah Abdali had been very much agitated for having to yield the share of the looted wealth to the Sikhs and for having lost the young women whom he would have sold to the Afghans in Kabul. During the winter of 1762, he brought a big, well equipped army to finish the Sikhs forever. Sikhs left the cities and were near Ludhiana on their way to the forests and dry areas of the south, when Abdali moved from Lahore very quickly and caught the Sikhs totally unprepared. They had their women, children and old people with them. As many as 20,000 to 30,000 Sikhs are said to have been murdered by the army. Jassa Singh himself received about two dozen wounds. The Sikhs call it Wada Ghalughara, or the Great Massacre. Abdali, fearing Sikh retaliation, sent messages that he was willing to assign some areas to the Sikhs to be ruled by them. Jassa Singh, the leader of the Khalsa, rejected his offers and told him that Sikhs own the Punjab and they do not recognize his authority at all. Abdali went to Amritsar and blew up the Harimandar Sahib, hoping to destroy the source of “life” of the Sikhs. However, within a few months, the Sikhs attacked Sirhind and moved to Amritsar. Abdali was still in Lahore and was surprised to find the Sikhs so close to him within such a short time of having been dealt the greatest blow of their history. He felt forced to fight them. A terrible battle was fought between the Sikhs and the invaders on 17 October 1762. Abdali knew that if he lost that battle to the Sikhs, he could not dare to come again to the Punjab. Sikhs were angered not only because of the heavy loss of lives, but also because of the destruction of the Harimandar Sahib. It was the day of the solar eclipse, and the Sikhs fought a fierce battle with the Afghans. Finding the Sikhs taking the upper hand, the Afghans took advantage of the darkness and fled back to Lahore. [The third Ghalughara took place in June 1984 when the Indian army stormed the Harimandar Sahib, Amritsar and murdered about 10,000 Sikhs. The Prime Minister of India was shot dead in October of the same year. It may be noted that anyone who ordered the murder of Sikhs received due punishment from them.