1716: Banda Singh Bahadur

On this date in 1716, legendary Sikh warrior Banda Singh Bahadur attained his martyrdom.

Born Lakshman Dev, the man who would become Banda Bahadur went on a spiritual wandering jag as a young man and chanced to be plucked out of hermitage by Sikh guru Gobind Singh.

When this guru’s efforts to make inroads for Sikh interests with the new Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah foundered, the converted hermit (now returned to the martial exercises of his caste) was tasked with a punitive expedition against one of the more obnoxious governors.

The zealous general did his mentor one better, attracting thousands of sympathetic followers and carving out a Sikh kingdom in Punjab in the early 1710s.

This proto-state (forerunner of an actual state in the next century) was in due time outmuscled by the Mughals, capturing the rebels’ last redoubt by means of a perfidious assurance of leniency that would not be forthcoming. Not at all.

The captured were marched back to Delhi, along with the pike-mounted heads of their fallen comrades, and there subjected to grisly mass executions.

British diplomats making nice with the Mughal court at the time recorded the scene.

The great rebel Guru (Bandu, the Sikh) who has been for these twenty years so troublesome in the province of Lahore, is at length taken with all his family and attendance by the Subahdar, or Viceroy, of that province. Some days ago they entered the city laden with fetters, his whole attendants which were left alive being about 780,* all severally mounted on camels, which were sent out of the city for that purpose, besides about 2,000 heads stuck upon poles, being those who died by the sword inb attle. He was carried into the presence of the King, and from thence to a close prison. He at present has his life prolonged with most of his officers, in hopes to get an account of his treasure in several parts of his kingdom, and of those that assisted him, when afterwards he will be executed for the rest. There are one hundred each day beheaded. It is not a little remarkable with what patience they undergo their fate, and to the last it has not been found that one has apostatised from the new formed religion.

Their captain’s turn finally came this date when — spurning conversion to Islam, as had his fellows — he saw his son slaughtered before his eyes, then was hacked limb from limb.

On this day..