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. Details of Singhs honoured by Guru Gobind Singh ji
Bhai Bachittar Singh was born on April 12, 1663. Bhai Sahib was one of ten brothers (eight of whom became shaheeds). Bhai Sahib was very close to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji from his childhood and spent almost his entire life in Guru Ji’s company. Bhai Sahib took part and accompanied Sri Guru Gobind Singh into every major battle.
According to the Bhatt Vahi Multani Sindhi, Bhai Bachitar Singh and Bhai Udai Singh were married on the same day on March 2, 1693.
In 1699 when Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji prepared khande ki pahul for the first time, according to Kavi Santokh Singh, Bhai Mani Singh offered his five sons, Bhai Bachittar Singh, Bhai Udai Singh, Bhai Anik Singh, Bhai Ajab singh and Bhai Ajaib Singh to Guru Sahib and all received amrit at that time.
Bhai Bachittar Singh was one of the select 25 Sikhs who would remain in Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s service at night by his bed.
Some sources such as Kavi Santokh Singh say that Sri Guru Gobind Singh used to lovingly call Bhai Bachittar Singh “Bohrupia” or one with many forms because he would change his robes several times in a day.
Battle of Anandpur Sahib
For many years, the Hindu Hill Rajas surrounding Anandpur Sahib were opposed to the Sikhs. They feared Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s rising power and the allegiance he was given by his Sikhs. The principles of Gurmat were also not pleasing to the Hill Chiefs who believed staunchly in their gods and beliefs such as caste and worship of stones.
The attitude of the Hill Rajas was all the more despicable because many of their grandfathers had been the ones Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib had freed from the Gwalior Fort.
Raja Bhim Chand of Kehlur who had personally visited Guru Sahib and saw the magnificence of the Gur-Darbar became jealous. When he demanded that Guru Sahib give him Parsadi Hathi which had been gifted to Guru Sahib by his devotee Raja Ram Rai of Assam (who was born with the blessing of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur), Guru Sahib refused. This lead to further tension and animosity which eventually culminated in the attack by the combined forces of the Hill Rajas at Bhangani. Guru Sahib defeated the Hill army and sent them back in an embarrassing retreat.
With the formation of the Khalsa, the Hill Chiefs were even more perturbed and offended that all castes were becoming one in the Khalsa. They felt that Guru Sahib’s power had to be checked.
On August 29, 1700 Raja Ajmer Chand of Kehloor, attacked the fort at Taragarh. Earlier, his father Raja Bhim Chand had attacked Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji in the battle of Bhangani. Taragarh was built on top of a hill and was five kilometers away from Anandpur Sahib. It was the site chosen by many Singhs to focus their days on naam and baani. Because it was the most isolated of the forts, it was the first one to be attacked. Sahibzada Baba Ajit Singh Ji was leading the Singhs at this fort and put up a strong fight. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji upon hearing of the attack dispatched 125 Singhs under the command of Bhai Udai Singh to support the Singhs at Taragarh.
Raja Ajmer Chand lost many of his companions and was forced to retreat. Several Singhs also became shaheeds in this battle, including Bhai Kalyaan Singh who was the son of Bhai Dyala Ji and therefore a cousin to Bhai Bachittar Singh and his brothers.
The following day on August 30, 1700, Raja Ajmer Chand attacked Fatehgarh fort. This fort was still being built and one of its walls (facing Kesgarh) was yet unfinished. The Khalsa army here was led by Bhai Bhagvan Singh who was the eighth of Bhai Mani Singh’s sons.
The battle last approximately 10 hours, until the sun had set. In this battle Bhai Bhagvan Singh, who fought at the forefront to repel the attack, attained martyrdom. Raja Ajmer Chand once again fell back after suffering defeat.
On the third day on August 31, 1700 Raja Ajmer Chand attacked the fort at Agamgarh (Holgarh). The attack lasted for approximately six hours but because the fort could not be stormed, Raja Ajmer Chand’s forces were once again forced to retreat. Amongst the shaheed Singhs during this battle was Bhai Bagh Singh who was the son of Bhai Rai Singh, a brother of Bhai Mani Singh (Bhai Rai Singh himself became a shaheed during the battle of Mukatsar along with four other sons).
Three days of defeats had shattered the confidence of the hill chiefs. Raja Ajmer Chand met with other hill chiefs including Raja Kesari Chand of Jasval that evening to discuss what further tactics could be employed to defeat Sri Guru Ji. Raja Kesari Chand (who was Ajmer Chand’s maternal uncle) declared to the gathering, “We cannot stop now. I swear that I will have either victory or death. Tomorrow I will lead the attack. I vow before this gathering that I will either return victorious or will die in battle.”
Amongst the older and most respect advisers to the hill chiefs was Minister Parmanand. Parmanand advised the hill chiefs that an attack should now be made on Lohgarh fort, but this time the door of the fort should be broken first. In order to do this, a battle elephant should be given liquor and iron plates should be fixed all over its body and upon its forehead. The elephant would be able to batter the door down. A blade should also be attached to its trunk to cut through the enemy. This elephant would be the key to victory and finally defeat the Khalsa army.
Duni Chand’s Loss of Faith and Escape
News of this attack reached Sri Guru Gobind Singh’s court through Bhai Chattar Singh Brar who was a spy for the Khalsa. Hearing of the planned attack, Sri Guru Ji smiled and said “Maha kaal rakhvaar hamaro. Maha Loh mai kinkar tharo”
Sitting near the front of the sangat was Duni Chand, grandson of the famous Sikh Bhai Salo (who had done great service during the karseva of Sri Amritsar Sahib). Duni Chand was the masand for the sangat of Majha. He was of a very heavy build and considered very strong. Duni Chand had been stationed at Holgarh and was given 500 soldiers to lead. Guru Ji said, “the elephant will be defeated and turned back by Bhai Duni Chand who is the elephant of this Darbar.”
Duni Chand heard these words and felt afraid. He could not understand how he alone could fight a drunken elephant and that too one covered in iron. During the middle of the night, he approached the leading Singhs like Bhai Daya Singh and asked that they intervene and suggest to Guru Sahib that the elephant be defeated in some other way. Bhai Daya Singh and the other Sikhs explained to Duni Chand that he was very lucky because it would be Guru Sahib himself who would accomplish the task but the credit would go to him. They assured him of victory.
Duni Chand was not reassured or satisfied. He next approached Bhai Udai Singh. He said, “You are the Jathedar of the Khalsa army. Don’t let me die a pointless death fighting the elephant. If today I am in this position, tomorrow it will be you. It doesn’t make sense to fight the hill chiefs. They have the power of the ruler of India at their backs and the will eventually win. If Guru Sahib doesn’t give up these battles, then we should leave him and go to Sodhi Naranjan Rai at Kartarpur or Mata Punjab Kaur (widow of Baba Ram Rai). Neither of them have any conflict with anyone. If we go to either one of them, they will also give us more respect than we receive here.
Bhai Udai Singh understood that despite being from a Gursikh family, Duni Chand had lost his faith. Bhai Udai Singh explained, “Sri Guru Ji knows everything. You are assured of victory. You are blessed to be in this position. If you win in battle you will be fortunate and if you become a shaheed you will still be fortunate. If your death is written, nothing can save you, so why should you run away?”
Duni Chand next approached Bhai Gurbaksh Singh from the line of Baba Buddha and Bhai Sher Singh Majithia, who both repeated what the earlier Gursikhs had said.
The final quarter of the night had arrived and Duni Chand was no further along in obtaining support from any of the leading Sikhs. Taking five of his followers with him (who were also from Majha), Duni Chand decided to flee from the fort. Duni Chand and his companions were using a rope to scale down a wall but because Duni Chand was very heavy, the rope broke. As he fell to the ground, he injured his left leg. His followers lifted him up and helped him escape.
As dawn broke and the bhog of Sri Asi Ki Vaar took place, Sri Guru Ji asked about Duni Chand and Bhai Sher Singh told him what Duni Chand had been doing all night. Satguru Ji heard the story and smiled. He said, “that death from which Duni Chand ran away like a coward is standing in front of him with its mouth wide open.”
Duni Chand and his companions completed their journey and arrived at Majitha. Duni Chand was resting his injured leg when in the middle of the night he had to get up. As he was rising from his bed and put his feet on the ground to put on his shoes, Duni Chand was bitten by a snake. Duni Chand died from this snake bite. ( Note: After some days, Duni Chand’s two grandsons, Anoop Singh and Saroop Singh came to Anandpur Sahib and fell at Guru Gobind Singh’s feet, asking that their grandfather’s error be forgiven. Both brothers then fought in the Khalsa army and became shaheeds at Nirmohgarh).
Later in the
the morning the Khalsa’s spy Bhai Chattar Singh informed Sri Guru Ji that Raja Ajmer Chand was brining the drunken war elephant to attack Lohgarh. Guru Ji looked at the Darbar to see which Singh would be sent to fight the elephant. Guru Ji’s eyes fell upon Bhai Bachittar Singh. Bhai Bachittar Singh rose with his hands together and said, “Maharaj, I am at your service. What are your orders?”
Guru Ji said, “You are going to go to Lohgarh fort and face the drunken elephant that the hill chiefs are sending. Prepare yourself.”
Guru Ji then gave Bhai Bachittar Singh the nagani barcha or snake-spear. The spear was forged with high carbon steel of shields in the Forges Of Kesgarh Sahib for Guru Gobind Singh ji. It is noteable that Spear has been mentioned as one of the greatest weapons of that era in History TV 18 show, ‘Forged in Fire’.
Bhai Bachittar Singh did ardas before Guru Sahib and with a radiant face proceeded towards Lohgarh.
Soon after, a Singh arrived in the Darbar and told Guru Ji that the army of the hill chiefs was approaching from the direction of Agampur with the drunken elephant at the front followed by the horse-riders of the army. Bhai Alam Singh said that he himself saw Raja Kesari Chand.
Bhai Alam Singh who was Guru Sahib’s Chaur-bardaar (one who does seva of Chaur Sahib) approached Guru Ji and said, “Maharaj, just as you have sent Bhai Bachittar Singh to stop the elephant, please send one of your servants to punish Raja Kesari Chand.”
Guru Ji replied, “Alam Singh, you are right. He should certainly receive the fruit of his actions.”
Guru Ji then asked three times in the Darbar, “Is there any brave warrior like Bhai Bachittar Singh who alone will punish Kesari Chand?”
Hearing these words, Bhai Bachittar Singh’s brother, Bhai Udai Singh rose and said with folded hands, “At your order, I am here.”
Guru Ji asked Bhai Sahib Singh to give Bhai Udai Singh the karpa barcha that he had used to create the Tribeni spring near Guru Ki Lahore. Bhai Udai Singh then also departed for Lohgarh accompanied by his father Bhai Mani Singh and Bhai Alam Singh along with some other Singhs.
Killing the beast.
At around 10am, Raja Ajmer Chand and his army could be seen approaching Lohgarh. Their army was in high spirits today, being confident of their victory. Kesari Chand was making his horse dance and was leading his men. At the front was the drunken elephant, covered in iron plates and with a four foot long blade on its trunk. The elephant’s bellows were echoing loudly in the surrounding hills.
Bhai Bachittar Singh saw that the time he was awaiting was near. He stood in Ardaas and asked for Guru Sahib’s blessings. He then asked his fellow Singhs for their permission to proceed. With the blessings and embraces of his brother Singhs, Bhai Bachittar Singh climbed upon his horse and exited Lohgarh fort.
Bhai Bachittar Singh saw that the drunken war elephant was leading the way as the Hill army was approaching Lohgarh very quickly. Bhai Bachittar Singh roared “Sat Sri Akaal!” and then, like lightning, raced his horse towards the approaching army. With his consciousness focused on the Guru, he sped towards the charging elephant. As Bhai Bachittar Singh neared the elephant, he clutched the spear Sri Guru Ji had given him and he rose from his saddle, with all his weight resting on his feet in the stirrups. With the elephant now facing him and in striking distance Bhai Bachittar Singh recoiled the spear and thrust it into the elephant’s forehead. The spear pierced the iron plates and lodged in the elephant’s flesh. Immediately, Bhai Sahib then pulled the spear back and a fountain of blood burst from the elephant’s forehead.
With a loud a shriek, the drunken elephant recoiled and threw its rider to the ground. It turned around and blindly charged into the hill chiefs’ forces. The elephant was swinging its trunk left and right cutting through the soldiers and trampling them under foot. The hill chief’s men were stunned and shaken.
With this, Bhai Udai Singh who was watching this entire scene while standing in Lohgarh’s gate, cried out “Sat Sri Akaal!” and stormed onto the battlefield . Bhai Udai Singh rode close to Kesari Chand who was still trying to lead his army and shouted “Kesari Chand! Attack me or else my blow will fall on you.” Kesari Chand swung his sword at Bhai Udai Singh but missed. Bhai Udai Singh immediately returned the blow with his Sri Sahib and Kesari Chand’s head was separated from his body.
As the shocked Hill army looked on, Bhai Udai Singh picked up Kesari Chand’s severed head, placed it upon the Karpa Barchha and rode off towards Anandgarh to deliver it to Sri Guru Gobind Singh.
With this, Bhai Mani Singh who was watching his sons from Lohgarh’s ramparts along with Bhai Sher Singh, Bhai Nahar Singh, Bhai Alam Singh and other warriors rode into the battlefield to fall upon the Hill army. Giani Gian Singh writes that Bhai Mohkam Singh cut off the war elephant’s trunk and Bhai Sher Singh cut its leg, causing it to fall to the ground like a collapsing mountain.
Seeing the charge of the Singhs, the already demoralized Hill army retreated across the Charan Ganga rivulet. The Singhs inflicted heavy damage on their army and Raja Ajmer Chand was also wounded by an arrow. In this battle, according to the Bhatt Vahi Tlaundi Pargana Jin, Bhai Mani Singh was severely injured and Bhai Alam Singh, Bhai Sukha Singh (another cousin of Bhai Bachittar Singh), and Bhai Kushal Singh became shaheeds.
Bhai Udai Singh arrived at Anandgarh and after offering his Fateh, placed Kesari Chand’s head at Guru Ji’s feet. Soon other Singhs arrived from the battlefield and told Guru Ji of the victory that had taken place and the daring his Singhs had shown.
Hukumnama Blessing to Bhai Bachittar Singh & Bhai Udai Singh
Bhai Bachittar Singh’s final days
Two days after Satguru Gobind Singh left the fort, a report was sent to Chaudhari Jaffar Ali Khan of Ropar that some Singhs were staying in Nihang Khan’s fort. Jaffar Ali Khan proceeded with a group of soldiers and surrounded the area.
As Jaffar Ali entered the fort, he couldn’t see any Sikhs. The troops with him proceeded to search the fort but found nothing. Only one room remained, where Bhai Bachittar Singh was lying inside. Nihang Khan’s unmarried daughter, Bibi Mumtaaz was also inside the room, attending to Bhai Sahib.
When Jaffar Ali asked to search the closed room, Nihang Khan protested and said, “my daughter and son-in-law are inside, you may not search that room.”
Bibi Mumtaaz heard her father’s words and with great reverence put her head on Bhai Bachittar Singh’s feet. At that instant, she felt a powerful current of energy pass through her body and a wave of spirituality was awakened within her.
As per her father’s words, Bibi Mumtaaz accepted Bhai Bachittar Singh as her husband from that moment onwards.
Jaffar Ali proceeded to leave the fort with his troops and apologized for the intrusion, saying that it was clear that someone had provided him false information.
When Bibi Mumtaaz emerged from the room, she declared that Bhai Bachittar Singh was her husband from this day forward. Her mother Jaina upon hearing this said, “daughter, what are you saying? What will your father say?”
Bibi Mumtaaz had been engaged to be married into a family in Bassi Pathana but she replied with determination, “Mother, my father has tied my fate to this man. Now only he is my husband.”
Bhai Bachittar Singh was however approaching the hour of his martyrdom. The next day on 9 Poh, at around 10.30 pm, Bhai Bachittar Singh left his body to go take his eternal place in Sach Khand.
Nihang Khan brought Bhai Gursa Singh and Bhai Bugga Singh to perform Bhai Sahib’s saskaar in the night. The cremation took place near the well of the fort.
Bhai Gursaa Singh first did the saskaar of Shaheed Bhai Bachhitar Singh and then secretly took the injured Baba Zoravar Singh Paalit to village DaDhaeRee where a Sikh lady, Mata Poopaa(n) lived. Mata Poopaa(n) was a devotee of the Guru and used to sew clothes for Guru Gobind Singh and present them as offerings. Mata slowly cleaned each wound and re-bandaged them. Baba Zorawar Singh would live to re-join Sri Guru Ji at Sri Damdama Sahib but became a shaheed in a skirmish in Chitaur, Rajasthan in 1708.
Bhai Sahib’s memorial still exists in village Kotla Nihang Khan today. While Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s shastar are housed at Gurdwara Bhatha Sahib, Bhai Bachittar Singh Ji’s personal effects are also preserved. These are the personal items that Bhai Bachittar Singh carried with him when he left Sri Anandpur Sahib and were on his person when he was brought to the fort. The Gurdwara Sahib marking Bhai Sahib’s saskaar houses the following:
• Small gatray vali Sri Sahib
• Sarbloh Bata
• Dhaal (shield)
• Two large kirpans
• Bhai Sahib’s dumalla chakar was also here but it was stolen
Bhai Bachittar Singh Ji’s nagni barchaa is preserved at Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib and his tegha is preserved at Sri Akal Takhat Sahib.
Bhai Sahib’s life and the story of Bhai Mani Singh’s family will forever be an inspiration to the Khalsa Panth.