Since the very creation of Siree Harmander Sahib by Siree Guru Raam Dass Jee & Siree Guru Arjan Dev Jee in 1574, it has been at the centre of Sikh spiritual & temporal affairs. This is perhaps the reason why successive regimes have sought to interfere with its management and influence. It has been invaded and destroyed several times. However, each time, it has been freed from the hands of the tryants and re-bulit more gloriously than before and gained in influence and importance over the years.
This is a short account from In Memory of Martyrs Pustak of these invasions.
1st Invasion By Zakriya Khan 1737
In 1737,Zakriya Khan the govenor of Punjab, invaded Siree Harmander Sahib and tortured and killed Bhai Mani Singh Jee who was one of the most beloved & highly spiritual Sikhs of Dashmesh Jee and also reponsilbe for the overall management of the complex.
The Mughal official, Massa Ranghar was then placed in charge of the complex. He desecrated the Gurdwara and Sarovar, he allowed the free consumption of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and converted the scared shrine into a brothel.
The Sikhs who had been forced by the Mughals to reside in the jungles and deserts eventually heard about this in 1740.
Two Naam Abhyassi Gursikhs by the names of Bhai Sukha Singh & Bhai Mehtab Singh disguised themselves as Muslim tax collectors and arranged a meeting with Massa Ranghar inside Siree Harmander Sahib. On entering Siree Harmander Sahib they cut off his head and rode off with it mounted on a spear. Amazingly these brave Sikhs did this in full view of all the Mughal guards and soldiers! Within 7 years the Khalsa was able to fully free Harmander Sahib from the Mughals, significantly this event eventually led on to the formation of Khalsa Raaj.
2nd Invasion By Ahmed Shah Abdali (Durrani) 1757
In October 1757 Ahmed Shah Abdali launched his fourth invasion on India. As usual, the Sikhs made the task of plundering India very difficult. They would constantly harass his troops using guerrilla tactics and would rescue countless Hindu women who were being kidnapped and taken to Afghanistan to be sold as slaves. In order to break the Sikh power base, he attacked and destroyed Siree Harmander Sahib completely in 1757. The sacred Sarovar was polluted with debris and animal carcasses.
The Sikhs decided to liberate Harmander Sahib under the leadership of Naam Rasseya Baba Deep Singh Jee in 1757. After a fierce battle, Baba Deep Singh was martyred but the Sikhs were successful in their quest and were able to celebrate Diwali there. They started the process of cleaning and rebuilding of the site on Vaisakhee 1758. The numerically and materially superior Afghan had been humbled by the Sikhs. The shock victory led to Abdali wishing to exterminate the Sikhs once and for all.
3rd Invasion By Ahmed Shah Abdali (Durrani) 1762
On 5th February 1762, an Afghan army numbering 150,000 soldiers feel upon a large gathering of Sikh men, women and children. In the ensuing desperate battle, over 30,000 Sikhs were killed, this became known as the Vada Ghallughara ( The Great Holocaust).
After this event, Abdali had Siree Harmander Sahib blown up once again, and the Sarovar was polluted with refuse and the entrails of cows and bullocks. During the cannon fire, a brick from Siree Harmander Sahib struck Abdali on the nose. This injury later became cancerous and led to his death in 1773.
In spite of the high casualties suffered, the Sikhs gathered at Siree Harmander Sahib in October 1762 to celebrate Bandi Chor, Abdali thought that the Sikhs had almost been destroyed so he sent a large force to finish the Sikhs off, once and for all. Although outnumbered, the Sikhs defeated Abdali’s Army and caused him to return to Afghanistan. The Sikh Spirit and their love for Siree Harmander Sahib shone through yet again.
4th Invasion By Ahmed Shah Abdali (Durrani) 1764
In December 1764, Ahmed Shah Abdali arrived at Lahore during his 7th Invasion of India. Once again, he marched on Amritsar Sahib and launched a sudden vicious assault on Darbar Sahib with an army of 30,000 men. Facing him was small contingent of 30 highly committed ChardeeKaala Khalsa Warriors under the leadership of Naam Rasseya Baba Gurbaskh Singh Jee. The Singhs shocked the Afghans with their bravery and ferocity and inflicted heavey losses on the enemy. They fought to the last mand left battlefiled littered with the corpses of their Afghan enemy.
Abdali was infuriated by his losses but also impressed by the courage of the Sikhs. He brought in heavy artillery and once again the sacred shrine to pieces.
Oazi Nur Mohammed who accompanied the Afghan army, in his JangNama described the Sikhs in reference to this battle:
“They were ready to spill their blood for the honor of their sacred shrine. They were men of grim determination, who did not have a grain of fear in them; the threat of slaughter and the dread of death did no faze them… If you disbelieve in what I say, enquire from the brave warriors who will tell you more than what I have said and wold nothing but praise for their art of war. The witnesses of my statement are those thirty thousand heroes who fought with them.”
So bitter were the Sikhs at Abdali’s raid that they passed a Gurmatta at he Siree Akaal Takht to set up an independent Sikh State. Soon after Abdali returned to Afghanistan, the Sikhs assembled at Amritsar Sahib and started the repair work. The daily worship started once again, and remained interrupted for 191 years until the Indian Government Invasion in 1955…
Following India’s independence in 1947,the Sikhs were betrayed in many different ways, one of which was the denial of a Panjabi state. The Sikhs were forced to struggle and protest in order to establish the status of Panjabi as the language of the state.
Volunteers begain gathering at Siree Harmander Sahib to daily court voluntary arrest as part of the Panjabi Suba Morcha. The police under orders of the Congress Party cordoned off the complex, closed the Langar and arrested the head priests. Keertan was stopped at various places around the complex and the police established themselves in charge for 4 days.
During this time, the police invaded the parkarma and fired teargas bombs to disperse the devotees, some of the shells even fell into the Sarovar. Hundreds of Sikhs were humiliated, beaten with lathi’s and rifles and arrested, this included several hundred Bibiyan. As a show of strength, the troops also out on a flag march, first through the streets of Amritsar Sahib and then around the Siree Harmander Sahib complex itself.
6th Invasion By Indria Gandhi & Army 1984
In the late 1970’s, Indria Gandhi decided to setle the ‘Sikh Problem’ for once and all. She was frustrated bu the fact Sikhs had protested against her illegal declaration of ‘Emergency Rules’, when she was found guilty on corruption charges and ended up in prison.
In June 1984, on the Shaheedi Gurpurab of Siree Guru Arjan Dev Sahib Jee, she ordered the Indian Army to launch an attack on Siree Harmander Sahib and over 40 other Gurdwaras, on the pretext of ‘flushing out militants’. The operation was carefully timed under a media blackout, to cause maximum casualties as innocent Sikh devotees were gathered there in high numbers.
As news of the attack traveled, Sikh Jathas started to converge towards Siree Harmander Sahib, but they were stopped or gunned down by Indian army patrols, supported by helicopter fire.
At Siree Harmander Sahib itself, around 150 ChardeeKaala Khalsa Warriors held out against 15,000 Indian army troops armed with the latest weaponry (including chemical weapons) for over 12 Days. The army was taken aback by ferocious resistance they faced and suffered high casualties. In the end, they brought in tank support and destroyed Siree Akaal Takht Sahib. The army proceeded to set fire to the Sikh reference library and destroyed and stole centuries of history and heritage. Siree Harmander Sahib itself had over 300 bullets fired into it. The sacred Sarovar was a pool of blood & bodies.
In November of 1984, Bhai Beant Singh & Bhai Satwant Singh assassinated Indria Gandhi for her heinous crime and demonstrated again that the spirit of Sukha Singh & Mehtab Singh lives on in the Sikhs.
7th & 8th Invasions By Rajiv Gandhi 1986 & 1988
Having been failed by the justice system after the 1984 attacks the Sikhs resorted to direct action and started fighting back, using Siree Harmander Sahib and the Akaal Takht Sahib as the anchor point. In response to this, the Government started to plant its agents in and around the Siree Harmander Sahib Complex and infiltrated it.
In April 1986, the Sikhs had gathered there for a pre-planned meeting. In order to stop them, Indian Commandos stormed the complex, killing and arresting several Sikhs who were inside. The operation was code named Operation Search (later called Operation Black Thunder)
On this occasion, most of the Sikhs had been persuaded not to fight because they feared the loss of innocent life. Therefore most of them surrendered to the Army peacefully. A second attack in May 1988 saw the complex being attacked again with more Sikhs being killed. Government infiltrators also desecrated the inside of Siree Darbar Sahib by excreting within it and later ‘surrendering’ to the police.
I know not enough has been written about the last 3 Invasions as it is a brief account. It is very deep and vicious please research on them.
Despite these 8 invasions, Siree Harmander Sahib stand splendor as ever!
Those that seek to destroy it should look back at its history and that of those tried to desecrate it, to see what remained of them and their empires.
It is vital for all regimes to note that the Sikhs have never compromised their right to freely assemble at Siree Harmander Sahib and to conduct their campaigns from there. It is the centre of Sikh Spiritual & Political affairs. It has also been the centre of resistance against the tyranny of many of India’s Rulers. Those regimes who wish to quash the Sikhs should understand that the KHALSA is destined to be free and sovereign
History has shown that if you befriend the Sikhs they can be the greatest of friends. However, if you attempt to cross them, they can become the most dangerous of enemies.