This weekend we are commemorating Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji. I wanted to share not only the history of Baba Deep Singh, but also the history of events happening during his lifetime. I knew that Baba Deep Singh Ji had been decapitated and had continued to fight. I didn’t know most of the history below until I did some research. After reading about the tortures the Sikhs faced during the holocausts and at the hands of Mir Mannu, I was so proud of the bravery of the Sikhs in fighting and surviving these injustices. It is thanks to the bravery of the Singhs and Kaurs during these times of persecution that our religion survived and that we get to be Sikhs today. May we all learn from this history how to persevere through hardship. Our history is about survival, resilience, and faith in God.
Baba Deep Singh Ji was born in January 1682 and was martyred Nov 13, 1757. He was born with the name Deepa to parents Bhai Bhagata Ji and Mai Jeoni Ji in Pahuvind. At the age of 12 he traveled with his family to Anandpur Sahib and met Guru Gobind Singh, where he was asked to stay. His family returned home and but Deepa continued to do sewa in Anandpur Sahib. He learned horsemanship, archery, and use of weapons. At the age of 18 he received Amrit on Vaisakhi, and was then known as Deep Singh. He spent eight years learning Gurmukhi from Bhai Mani Singh. In 1702, Guru Ji requested that he return to help his parents, and he was then married. Two years later, he learned of the separation of Guru Ji from the younger Sahibzaade and Mata Gujri during the battle with the Hindu Hillput Rajas. He met the Guru at Damdama Sahib in Talwandi and learned of the martyrdom of the Sahibzaade.
At Damdama Sahib, he worked with Bhai Mani Singh to prepare the final text of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which was recited by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He continued the sewa of producing handwritten copies of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji for several years. These copies went to Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Sri Takht Patna Sahib, Sri Takhat Hazur Sahib, and Sri Takht Anandpur Sahib. A copy in Arabic was sent to the Middle East. He was the first head Granthi at Damdama Sahib.
After the Jyoti Jot of Guru Ji, Baba Deep Singh joined Banda Singh Bahadur in fighting at the battle of Sirhind, during which Wazir Khan was killed. In 1733, he joined with other Sikhs to form the Dal Khalsa, which was divided into the Buddha Dal and Taruna Dhal, and further into five jathas. Baba Ji led one of these jathas, which went on to be known as the Shahid misl.
This was a horrible time of oppression and injustice. Zakariaya Khan Bahadur, Governor of Lahore, rewarded anyone who removed a Sikh’s hair, took off the scalp of a Sikh, give information on whereabouts of Sikhs. He sentenced anyone who withheld information or gave shelter to the Sikhs. Bhai Mani Singh was martyred in 1737, cut joint by joint. A Mughal officer named Massa Ranghar was stationed in Amritsar to prevent the Sikhs from accessing Harmandir Sahib. He committed many bad acts there, and in response, Mehtab Singh and Sukkha Singh killed him and escaped in 1740. When Bhai Taru Singh was arrested and was made shaheed in 1745 by removal of his scalp, Mehtab Singh also surrendered himself and was martyred on a wheel.
In 1746, the Chotta Ghallughara took place (small holocaust, only named small because there was a much larger one later). Mughal commander Jaspat Rai was killed fighting against the Sikhs, and his brother Lakhpat Rai who lived in Lahore, vowed revenge against the Sikhs. The Sikhs were outnumbered and under-equipped and fought with all their might. They received no support from the hill Rajas, who also attacked. About 7,000 Sikhs were killed and 3,000 were captured then executed, the rest making it to the sanctuary of the Lakhi Jungle. At that time the Sikh population was small due to persecution and this is estimated to be a loss of 1/3 of the total Sikh population.
In 1752, Ahmad Shah Durrani led an invasion into India and it was during this time that Sukkha singh (who had killed Massa Ranghar with Mehatab Singh) was martyred. Durrani was defeated by the Mughals and Mir Mannu took over as Governor of Lahore until 1753. Under Mir Mannu's command, hundreds of Sikhs (women and children included) were publicly executed daily at the present site of Gurdwara Shahid Ganj. Many Sikhs were hiding in Jungles as each house was searched. Women who were in jail were given 40 pounds of grain to grind daily with an extremely heavy chakki. These women were offered freedom if they converted to Islam. A heavy stone was placed on the chest of women unable to grind. Their food for the day was a bowl of water and a quarter of a piece of bread. Their children were speared, cut into pieces and the pieces were put as a garland around the mother’s necks. 300 children were killed in this way and not one Kaur give up her Sikhi. One woman was tortured severely, and she continued to jap Waheguru until she was finally killed. Seeing the fact that her faith was not broken after days of torture, many guards left their jobs.These women were strong and resilient! They did not give up their religion. It is said that people used to sing “We are the plants and Mannu a sickle, but by now, everyone knows, The more he cuts us, the more we grow.” In 1750, Kapur Singh Virk led 500 Sikhs to attack Mir Mannu, however he escaped. He died by falling off his horse in 1753 and the prisoners were freed. These women are in our ardas daily.
In 1755, Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded India and looted valuables and forcibly took Hindu and Muslim women and children as slaves to sell them. No one dared to stop them; not the Rajputs or the Maratha Khatris. Baba Ji’s Jatha attacked Abdali and freed 300 women and girls, and 100 boys. They were taken home. This again shows how the Sikhs stand up for justice- it didn't matter that these were Hindus or Muslims, but just human beings.
Abdali appointed his son Taimur Shah to "finish" the Sikhs. When Jahan Khan invaded Amritsar under the direction of Taimur Shah in 1757, they defiled the sacred pool and started demolishing the Gurdwara. Baba Deep Singh Ji was now 75 years old and gathered Sikhs to go towards Harmandir Sahib. There were about 5,000 Sikhs. At Tarn Taran Baba Ji drew a line on the ground with his Khanda, asking only those willing to die to cross the line. All Sikhs crossed and Baba Ji recited "Jo to praym khaylan ka chaao, sir dhar talee galee mayree aao, It maarag pair dhareejai, sir deejai kaan na keejai.Those who wish to play the game of love (to follow the Sikh path), come to me with your head in your palm. If you wish your feet to travel this path, don't delay in accepting to give your head.” Jahan Khan headed to Tarn Taran with an army of 20,000. Baba Ji’s army reached 5 miles from Amritsar when the battle began. He fought with a 15 kg Khanda. When it was almost won, reinforcements arrived for Jahan Khan. Jamal Khan, a Mughal commander, attacked Baba Deep Singh Ji and both were beheaded at the same time. A young Sikh warrior called out, reminding Baba Ji of his vow to die at Harmandir Sahib. Baba Ji stood, holding the severed head in his left palm and the Khanda in the right, continuing to fight until he reached Harmandir Sahib. Seeing this, many of the Mughals ran away terrified. Baba Ji matha tekked and laid his head on the parkarma at Harmandir Sahib and became one with God. The Sikhs won the battle. He was a true saint soldier.
(Note: it was when Ahmad Shah Duranni returned that the Harmandir Sahib was blown up in 1757 and the Vaddha Ghallughara happened where 20-50, 000 Sikhs died in 1762.).