Bhai Baghel Singh (1730 - 1802) was born in village Jhabal, District Amritsar in a Dhaliwal Jatt family around 1730's. From humble beginnings he arose to become a formidable force in the area between River Sutlej and River Yamuna. He aligned himself with Karor Singhia misl led by Sardar Karora Singh. After the early demise of Karora Singh, Bhai sahib succeeded as a leader of Karora Singhia misl in 1765. He is celebrated in Sikh history as the vanquisher of Mughal Delhi. Gurdwara Nanak Piao in Delhi was constructed by Baghel Singh
Karora Singhia misl had 12,000 fighting men according to Syed Ahmad Latif, a Muslim historian. As well as being a good soldier, Baghel Singh was a very good political negotiator and was able to win over many an adversary to his side. The Mughals, the Ruhilas, the Marathas and British sought his friendship. In the wake of decay of Mughal authority in the Punjab owing to Ahmad Shah Durrani's successive invasions during the latter half of the eighteenth century, the Sikhs began extending their influence.
Baghel Singh's KarorSinghia misl fought head on with Ahmad Shah Durrani (also known as Abdali), along with other Dal Khalsa Misls near Kup at Malerkotla, where in one day of battle alone 30-40000 of women, children and old Sikhs were martyred. Gurdwara Rikab Ganj was also constructed by Baghel Singh
After Durrani's invasion, Sikhs started consolidating the territories between Yamuna and Indus by incorporating into Misls and misls reporting to Chief of Dal Khalsa, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia about territory won at Akal Takht Amritsar.
Whereas Sukarchakia misal (of Ranjit Singh) won the territory of Gujranwala, and other areas of Ravi and Chenab Doab and Ramgarhia Misal won the areas of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Bhangi around Lahore and Kasur, Karor Singhia misal declared their ownership of territories now including Ambala, Karnal, Hissar, Rohtak, Chandigarh, etc. Baghel Singh took possession of portions of the Jalandhar Doab and established himself at Hariana, near Hoshiarpur. Soon after the Sikh conquest of Sirhind in 1764, he extended his arms beyond Karnal and occupied number of villages including Chhalaudi which he later made his headquarters.
Then Baghel Singh Dhaliwal turned towards cis Yamuna territories and Sikhs were soon invading territories beyond Delhi and into areas like Meerut, Awadh, and collecting tribute from these Nawabs. Gurdwara Sis Ganj Chandani Chowk Delhi, Martyrdom place of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, got constructed by Baghel Singh.
Sikhs and Ruhilas looted villages around Delhi
In February 1764, Sikhs in a body of 40,000 under the command of Baghel Singh and other leading warriors crossed the Yamuna and captured Saharanpur. They over ran the territory of Najib ud-Daulah, the Ruhila chief, realizing from him a tribute of eleven lakh of rupees. In April 1775, Baghel Singh with two other sardars, Rai Singh Bhangi and Tara Singh Ghaiba, crossed the Yamuna to occupy that country, then ruled by Zabita Khan, son and successor of Najib ud-Daulah. Zabita Khan in desperation offered Baghel Singh large sums of money and proposed an alliance jointly to plunder the crown lands.The combined forces of Sikhs and Ruhilas looted villages around the present site of New Delhi. In March 1776, they defeated the imperial forces near Muzaffarnagar. The whole of the Yamuna Gangetic Doab was now at their mercy.
Baghel Singh join hands with the Mughal forces laying siege to Patiala
When in the autumn of 1779, a large Mughal army under the command of Prince Farkhanda Bakht and Wazir Abdul Ahad Khan led an expedition against the cis Sutlej Sikhs, Baghel Singh along with Rai Singh of Buna and Bhanga Singh of Thanesar joined hands with the imperial forces at Karnal and encircled Patiala. Raja Amar Singh visited Baghel Singh in his camp at the village of Lahal and made peace with him and had his son. Sahib Singh, receive the rites of Khalsa initiation at his hands. Meanwhile, Amar Singh sought help from the Sutlej Sikhs. Baghel Singh out witted his imperial allies who sought safety in flight suffering heavy losses.
In April 1781, when Mirza Shafi, a close relative of the Mughal prime minister, captured the Sikh military post at Indri, 10 km south of Ladva, Baghel Singh retaliated by attacking Khalil Beg Khan of Shahabad who surrendered his force of 300 horse, 800 foot and 2 pieces of cannon. Gurdwara Majnu ka Tilla, got constructed by Baghel Singh.
Baghel Singh occupied the Diwani-Am
On 11 March 1783, when the Sikhs entered the Red Fort in Delhi and occupied the Diwani-Am, the Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, made a settlement with them agreeing to allow Baghel Singh to raise gurdwaras on Sikh historical sites in the city and realize six annas in a rupee (37.5%) of all the octroi duties in the capital. Baghel Singh stayed in Sabzi Mandi, with 4000 troops, and took charge of the police station in Chandni Chowk. He located seven sites connected with the lives of the Gurus and had shrines raised thereon within the space of eight months, from April to November 1783. Gurdwara Sis Ganj marked the spot in the main Mughal street of Chandni Chowk where Guru Tegh Bahadur had been executed under the fiat of the emperor and Gurdwara Rikab Ganj, near modernday Parliament House, where the body was cremated. Bangla Sahib and Bala Sahib commemorated the Eighth Guru, Guru Har Krishan. Three other gurdwaras built were at Majnu ka Tilla, Moti Bagh and Telivara.
Baghel Singh died probably in 1802, at Hariana, in present-day Hoshiarpur district. A samadh enshrining the memory of one of the more picturesque misi sardars still stands in the town.
Camped in the jugles around Delhi
It is also commonly believed that Baba Baghel Singh with his army had camped in the jungles surrounding Delhi and were planning to secretly launch their attack. However, when their presence came to be known and the Mughal Emperor was informed that about 30 thousand Sikhs were camping in the jungles. The place where the camp was established later came to be known as "Tis Hazari". This is where the present day Delhi High Court is located.
Another story goes that the Mughal Emperor when he came to know that Sikhs were planning to attack Delhi, as sufficient quantity of food and other essential commodities were stocked in the fort he ordered that all gates of the fort be closed so that the Sikhs camping in the jungles would soon run out of rations and go back. The Sikhs also realised that their surprise had been lost and it was impossible to capture the fort with all gates closed and locked. Some of the Sikhs accidentally came across a mason from the neighbourly village who informed them that a particular place the wall of the fort had caved in from inside though the exterior was intact. He also agreed to lead the Sikh and show them this spot. The Sikhs planned to ram the wall with logs to make a hole in the wall to enter the fort through. This place is now called "Mori Gate" and this where the Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT) in present Delhi is located.
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- 2. Bhahgu, Ratan Singh, Prachin Panth Prakash [Reprint], Amritsar, 1962
- 3. Sital, Sohan Singh, Sikh Mislan. Ludhiana, 1952
- 4. Gupta, Hari Ram, History of the Sikhs, vol. III. Delhi, 1979
- 5. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983