We have all heard the story of how Bhai Bachittar Singh, with the blessings of Sri Guru Gobind Singh, turned the Mughal army’s charging elephant around at the battle of Anandpur Sahib, but the full details of the background of that incident and the details surrounding his life and shaheedi are perhaps not as well known. We will try to take a closer look at this glorious shaheed’s life here. This account is based on historical sources, chiefly Guru Kian Sakhian (1790), Bhat Vehi sources, Panth Parkash Giani Gian Singh and Gurpartap Suraj Parkash Granth, amongst others.
Bhai Bachittar Singh belonged to a family which has no parallel in Sikh history. Bhai Bachittar Singh was the son of Bhai Mani Singh. There has been some confusion amongst Sikh historians about the identity and history of Bhai Mani Singh, some claiming there have been two or even three Gursikhs by this name. Gyani Garja Singh who located and published the book shaheed Bilas Bhai Mani Singh by Kavi Seva Singh has established that there was indeed only one Bhai Mani Singh.
Bhai Mani Singh was born in a Gursikh family and began his seva as a youth in the court of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib. He continued to serve in the darbar of the subsequent Gurus and then also played a key role after 1708 in guiding the Khalsa. We remember his shaheedi every day in ardaas.
What is not as well known is what a pivotal role this family played in Sikh history as a whole. Relatives of Bhai Bachittar Singh include his uncle (brother of Bhai Mani Singh) Bhai Dyala Ji who was shaheed with Siri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, his maternal grandfather Bhai Lakhi Shah Vanjara who cremated the body of Sri Guru Ji in Delhi, his younger brother Bhai Udai Singh who was a general in the Khalsa army and his other brothers Bhai Anik Singh, Bhai Ajab Singh and Bhai Ajaib Singh who were martyred in the battle of Chamkaur Sahib. Bhai Bachittar Singh had two sons,Bhai Sangram Singh and Bhai Ram Singh who both also became shaheeds. Bhai Sangram Singh was martyred in the battle of Chappar Chiri and Bhai Ram Singh was martyred in Delhi on June 9, 1716.
A total of 53 shaheeds came from this one glorious family alone.
Shaheed Martyr Lineage
The 30 Shaheeds or martyrs mentioned here gave their lives during the 17th and 18th centuries while in the service of the sixth, ninth, and tenth gurus. The warriors descended from Rajput clan and were noble Gursikhs by birth, blood ties, or the bonds of marriage. This one Sikh family alone, united by a strong tradition of valor, sacrifice and martyrdom, are believed to have sacrificed, in all, a total of 53 family members spanning several generations.
Martyrdom Sixth Guru Era:
- 1 – Shaheed Rao Ballu (Son of Rao Moola)
Martyred 1634 at Amritsar fighting along side Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji
Seventh Guru Era:
- 2 -Shaheed Amar Chand (6th Son of Naik Mai Das and Madhari) achieved
martyrdom in 1640s.
Martyrdom Ninth Guru Era:
- 3 – Shaheed Bhai Dial Das (2nd Son of Naik Mai Das and Madhari)
Martyred on November 11, 1675 at Delhi immersed in a cauldron of boiling water. Imprisoned and tortured to death along with Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji and disciples Mati Das, and Sati Das.
Martyrdom Tenth Guru Era 17th Century:
Bhai Mani Singh and five of his sons Bachittar Singh, Udai Singh, Anik Singh, Ajab Singh, and Ajai Singh all accepted the initiation of immortal Amrit of Vaisahki 1699 and joined Guru Gobind Singh ji in his newly founded order of Khalsa warriors. Other family members also accepted initiation and took the surname Singh. Many of the warriors originating from the Rajput Clan family became shaheed martyrs.
Martyrs late 17th Century:
- 4 – Shaheed Bhai Hati Chand (5th Son of Naik Mai Das and Ladiki)Martyred 1688 at battle of Bhangani.
- 5 – Shaheed Bhai Sohan Chand (2nd Son of Naik Mai Das and Ladiki)Martyred 1691 at Battle of Nadaun.
- 6 – Shaheed Bhai Lehna (3rd Son of Naik Mai Das and Ladiki)
Martyred 1696 Battle of Guler.
Heroes and Martyrs 18th Century:
The warriors fought Hill Rajas and Mughal adversaries at the side of Guru Gobind Singh in a series of battles between 1700 and 1705:
Heroic Warriors 1700:
Bhai Bachittar, perhaps the most well known of the the five brothers, single-handedly fought a drunken elephant sent to break the gates of Lohgarh fort in September of 1700.
Bhai Bachittar Singh and his elder brother Bhai Chittar Singh both fought in the battle of Nirmohgar during October of 1700 when Hill Rajas joined forces with Mughals.
Fathers and sons, brothers, and cousins, along with uncles and sons, joined the ranks of shaheed martyrs sacrificed by this family during battles defending several forts in the Anandpur vicinity:
- 7 – Shaheed Bhai Kalyaan Singh (Son of Bhai Dial Singh)Martyred August 29, 1700 while battling the attack of fort Taragarh.
- 8 – Shaheed Bhai Bhagvan Singh (8th Son Bhai Mani Singh and Kemi )Martyred August 30, 1700 when repelling attack at Fatehghar fort:
- 9 – Shaheed Bhai Bagh Singh (Son of Bhai Rai Singh)Martyred August 31, 1700 attack of fort Agamgarh Holgarh.
- 10 – Shaheed Bhai Sukha Singh (Cousin of Bhai Bachittar Singh)Martyred September 1, 1700 attack of fort Lohghar at Charan Ganga battlefield.
Family Honored by Guru Gobind Singh 1703:
Guru Gobind Singh publicly acknowledged the service of the Rajput Clan lineage (Naik) Mai Das, and Mani Singh, and the five brothers Bhai Bachittar, Udai Singh, Anik Singh, Ajab Singh, and Ajai Singh. He honored the family naming them as his own sons in a hukamnama issued on October 2, 1703. The proclamation survived the centuries engraved in marble.
Battles and Martyrs 1705:
The five brothers fought along side Guru Gobind Singh during the seven month 1705 Siege of Anandpur Sahib. During the evacuation of Anandpur brothers and uncles joined a select group of 40 singhs who took an oath took to defend Guru Gobind Singh until they drew their last breath. All achieved martyrdom fighting hordes of Mughals while protecting Guru Gobind Singh.
The Guru gave Bhai Udai Singh charge of a band of 50 who warriors fought to the last man to hold back thousands of the enemy throughout the night so that their comrades could escape the fort.
Bhai Bachittar Singh succumbed to wounds received fighting treacherous Mughal forces as the evacuees fled under cover of darkness to cross the flooded river Sarsa.
Three brothers and one uncle fought along side the Guru and his two eldest sons at the Battle of Chamkaur
Bhai Mani Singh’s brothers, one of them a father and his sons attained martyrdom with the Chali Mukte fighting to protect Guru Gobind Singh at the Khidrana reservoir.
- 11 – Shaheed Bhai Udai Singh (3rd Son of Bhai Mani Singh and Seeto)Martyred December 6, 1705, at Shahi Tibbi.
- 12 – Shaheed Bhai Anik Singh (4th Son of Bhai Mani Singh and Seeto)Martyred December 7, 1705, at Chamkaur.
- 13 – Shaheed Bhai Ajab Singh (5th Son of Bhai Mani Singh and Seeto)Martyred December 7, 1705, at Chamkaur.
- 14 – Shaheed Bhai Ajaib Singh (6th Son of Bhai Mani Singh and Seeto)Martyred December 7, 1705, at Chamkaur.
- 15 – Shaheed Daan Singh (4th Son of Naik Mai Das and Madhari)Martyred December 7, 1705, at Chamkaur.
- 16 – Shaheed Bhai Bachittar Singh (2nd Son of Bhai Mani Singh and Seeto)Martyred December 8, 1705, at the fort of Kotla Nihang Khan when he succumbed to injuries and wounds sustained during the River Sarsa crossing at Malkpur Ranghran.
- 17 – 21 Shaheed Bhai Rai Singh and four sons (4th Son of Naik Mai Das and Ladiki)
Martyred December 29, 1705 in the Battle of Mukatsar
- 22 – Shaheed Bhai Man Singh (5th Son of Naik Mai Das and Madhari)
Martyred 1708 at battle of Chittorgarh..
Martyrs Khalsa Raj Era:
The family tradition of martyrdom continued. Two of Bhai Mani Singh’s brothers, and both of Bhai Bachittar Singh’s sons fought along side Banda Singh Bahadar to punish the villains of Sarhand and establish Khalsa Raj:
- 23 – Shaheed Sangram Singh (1st Son of Bhai Bachittar)Martyred May 22, 1710, at the battle of Chappar Chiri, 15 miles from Sirhind.
- 24 – Shaheed Bhai Jetha Singh (1st Son of Naik Mai Das and Madri Bai)Martyred 1711, at Alowal.
- 25 – Shaheed Bhai Roop Singh (7th Son of Naik Mai Das and Madri Bai)Martyred 1711, at Alowal.
- 26 – Shaheed Raam Singh (2nd Son of Bhai Bachittar)
Martyred June 9, 1716, at Delhi along with Banda Singh Bahadar and about 3,500 shaheed singhs.
Surviving brothers, sons, and grandsons sacrificed their lives to the treachery of Zakaria Khan the Governor of Lahore.
- 27 – Shaheed Bhai Mani Singh (3rd Son of Naik Mai Das and Madhari)Martyred June 24, 1734, at Lahore.
- 28 – Shaheed Bhai Jagat Singh (1st Son of Naik Mai Das and Ladiki)Martyred June 24, 1734, at Lahore.
- 29 – Shaheed Chitar Singh (1st Son of Bhai Mani Singh and Seeto)Martyred June 24, 1734, at Lahore.
- 30 – Shaheed Gurbaksh Singh (7th Son of Bhai Mani Singh and Seeto)